By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
ARIANNA Vanderpool-Wallace had a sensational performance at the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games, but it was only a tune-up to get her prepared for the FINA Short Course World Championships.
Fresh off her record-setting, four gold medal performance at the CAC Games in Veracruz, Mexico, Vanderpool-Wallace is leading a four-member team in Doha, Qatar, this week.
Looking back at her historic feat, Vanderpool-Wallace, speaking for the first time since her accomplishment, said she wanted to make sure that she surpassed her last appearance at the CAC Games in Puerto Rico.
“The meet as a whole was very good,” she said. “Unfortunately we were all affected by the weather that came through Veracruz but I think the entire team took it in stride and performed to the best of our abilities.”
No doubt, she took full advantage of the opportunity to surpass what she did four years ago in Puerto Rico, increasing her claim as the most decorated Bahamian swimmer.
“I went into the meet knowing that at the last games I just missed out on getting four gold medals by just a hair and walked away with two golds and two silvers,” she said. “As a result I have been looking forward to these games to try again. I didn’t know what to expect so early in the season but definitely happy with the outcome.”
Not only did she medal, but Vanderpool-Wallace was joined on the podium by Joanna Evans, the rising 18-year-old superstar from Grand Bahama, who picked up two silver medals. Vanderpool-Wallace was the first to sing her praises.
“I was very excited with her performances,” Vanderpool-Wallace said. “She is a very tough competitor, and well beyond her years in that aspect. She has been very impressive this season and I know that she is only going to continue to improve.”
For her efforts, you would think that she would take the time to celebrate, but Vanderpool-Wallace indicated that there were some more pressing issues for her to deal with.
“Unfortunately I haven’t had time to celebrate as we flew back to our respective training bases the day after swimming ended for five days and are now off to Qatar for World Championships,” Vanderpool-Wallace said. “I’m looking forward to the end of the competition so that I can spend time relaxing with family and friends.”
The focus is now shifted to Doha and Vanderpool-Wallace is looking forward to winning at least one more medal to add to her collection that includes a silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, in July.
“Going in to Doha, I’m just going to try to sharpen up in my details and see where it takes me,” she said. “This meet is swam in short course metres in comparison to the CAC Games, which was long course metres (kind of like the difference between indoor track vs outdoor track). I don’t have an opportunity to swim short course metres very often so it will be a case of rearranging race strategy as we go.”
And her assignment will be slightly different in that she will only contest three events - 50m, 100m free and 50m butterfly.
“I’m just looking forward to competing against the world as with Commonwealth and CAC, all of the world’s best were not in action,” she said. “It’s a different ball game when you have all of the world’s best present.”
Vanderpool-Wallace missed the last championships in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey, but she became the first Bahamian to win a medal at the championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates when she picked up a bronze in the 50m free.
Joining Vanderpool-Wallace in Doha are Elvis Burrows, Ariel Weech and Evans, all of whom were in Glasgow and Veracruz.
“The team is a great one,” she said. “We have all bonded as this is our third meet this year together, so we are truly a family.”
Doha, according to Vanderpool-Wallace, is a great city from what “we have seen thus far.”
She noted that there are a lot of high rise buildings in the city centre while buildings on the way to the pool encompass more of the middle eastern feel. “Very interesting setting into their culture,” she said.
As for the team, she noted they are “settled in nicely. We have not yet seen the competition pool but have swam in the warm-up and warm-down pool which are nice.”
Coached by Andy Loveitt and Travano McPhee, Team Bahamas will be competing in the championships December 3-8.
Burrows is slated to start competing in the 50-freestyle on December 4 and the 50 butterfly on December 5, Weech and Vanderpool-Wallace are entered in the 100 freestyle December 4 and 50 freestyle December 6 and Evans will contest the 800 freestyle on December 4 and the 400 freestyle December 5.
“We all just want to swim times that will put us in a great position,” Vanderpool-Wallace said. “As this meet is short course metres as opposed to CAC which was long course metres, we do not have the opportunity to race this distance very often and so it will be fun and exciting to see what we can do.”
The team will be supported by coach Andy Knowles and swimmers Alec Sands and Victoria Russell, who were all afforded the opportunity to travel to Doha to participate in the first FINA Doha 2014 Youth Programme.