By RENALDO DORSETT
THIS (the 2015) edition of the RBC National Swimming Championships was the best one of the meet during his tenure and is a testament to the development of the sport as it continues to increase its profile in the Bahamian sporting landscape, according to Algernon Cargill, president of the Bahamas Swimming Federation.
“It was by far our best nationals in the 13 years I have been president of the federation,” he said. “What we see is the younger swimmers really carrying the load and it speaks to the strength of our programmes and the development of our juniors. The results are there in that we were able to win CARIFTA for consecutive years,” he said.
“At this year’s nationals we saw qualifiers for Junior Worlds and our seniors have qualified for Pan Ams and World Championships so it shows that our programme is working and swimming really has become one of the premier sports in the country at the international level.”
He said the development of the national development programme has been due in large part to the partnership with RBC which has now extended more than three decades, however, further assistance from corporate Bahamas and a change in perception must be made among the Bahamian public if the sport will continue to develop.
“We are very happy with the long term support of RBC. For 32 years they have sponsored the National Swimming Championships and for the last five years the academic All-Bahamian award and this is the longest private enterprise sponsorship of a sporting organisation in the Bahamas. What we are happy about is that RBC continually increases its support and it’s very indicative of our athletes and their performances,” he said.
“One of the first things we have to do is change the incorrect perception that swimming is an elitist sport. We have a diverse group of swimmers from all educational backgrounds and one of the things that hurts recruiting new athletes at times is people thinking that this sport is just ‘for rich people.’ That is simply not true. We embrace learning development, we promote education and also we want to provide Bahamians to get an education beyond the high school level, into the tertiary level. We need corporate Bahamas to continue to come forward and invest in our young people.”
He added that the nationals provides an opportunity for the Bahamian public to witness the best the sport has to offer.
“We have a very talented group of senior swimmers and with the foundation we have set at the junior level, our performances will continue to grow,” Cargill said. “Look at the results. It’s the only sport in the Bahamas that can say they have won CARIFTA two years in a row - in the last decade at least. We also have won more CAC medals than any other sport, yet often times we don’t get the recognition of some of the other sports and that is really unfair to our swimmers. We can be thankful for our major sponsorship like RBC, BTC and others that have stepped in and helped our federation in a big way. We won six CAC medals last year and a Commonwealth medal along with a Youth Olympic medal, so this tells you the Bahamas is headed in the right direction.
One of the highlights of the meets was the appearance of Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace as the top star to make a splash.
“It’s an inspiration to the young swimmers because we want them to know that she got a start at these championships. So if she made it to the Olympic stage and now excels on the professional level, it can be done,” Cargill said.
“A lot of swimmers are following in her footsteps. Joanna Evans is bound for the University of Texas, she won the country’s first Youth Olympic medal and she trains in a pool that’s not even heated. N’Nhyn Fernander has been able to dethrone alot of senior swimmers, so there are others that are doing great things and the programmes are well in hand.”
As for the immediate future, the BSF will host regional competition, and look to make history at several international meets over the course of the next two years.
“We will be be hosting Caribbean Island Swimming Championships. Next year is the Olympics and we are focused on a great showing at the Olympic Games. Arianna already has two A-cuts for those games so she is focused on that. Joanna Evans is also preparing for the Pan Am Games while Albury and Lily Higgs are preparing for the World Juniors. In the immediate future we are hoping to win the country’s first Olympic medal in the sport. We have already had Arianna swim in a final, now our sights are on a medal. At the development level, repeating as CARIFTA champions is important to us,” Cargill said. “We have the athletes, we have the coaches and we want to continue to stress building the foundation on athletic and academic development.”