By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
YESTERDAY I dropped my sons off to the Dolphins Swim Club Summer Camp and, boy, did the memories come flooding back.
I could hear my wife, Jamie, teasing me in the background (we celebrated our 13th anniversary on the 24th of this month so you know being married to a stand-up comedian all these years, she can crack with the best of them, love you Jamie) but eventually her witty jabs were drowned out by the splashing of the swimmers and the whistles of the coaches.
Somehow I was back in time, almost transported through some time portal to one of the Dolphins practices with my first coach and the matriarch of the club, Betty Cole. She was the first person to see the talent in me and get it out of me. “Betty” and my late mother, Marlene, stayed after practice helping me hone my skills many a day.
When it was all said and done, I managed to win seven straight national swimming championships (6 and under twice, 7-8 twice, 9-10 twice and 11-12 once plus 3 Freeport Aquatics Age Group Championships, numerous national teams including the CACC Games and 15 national records).
When I hung up the trunks after my only nationals defeat, there was much “politics” - as we say in the Bahamas - surfacing in the sport of swimming here.
During the transition from the Bahamas Federation of Amateur Aquatics (BFAA) to the present Bahamas Swim Federation (BSF), there were extenuating circumstances surrounding my loss. But I will take the high road (being a Dallas Cowboy fan has taught me to deal with controversial losses) and I tip my hat to my schoolmate and friend, Andrew Thompson, who was the better man that weekend in beating me and stopping my streak at seven straight national championships (I may stand to be corrected, a streak which still hasn’t been matched to this day).
In addition to Betty Cole and my late dear mother, I couldn’t have done it without my Aunt Kay providing unconditional love and support and my second coach, Lord bless his soul, Bud Geiselman.
“Betty” taught me how to swim and win, Bud made me a champion!
I also had great teammates that pushed me in practice to reach my true potential. I will never forget Jimmy Lightbourn, David Morley, Sean Nottage, Sean Tully, Troy Simms, Ricky Fox, Eddie (Morning Boil Island FM) and Mark Carter, Charlie Smith (Yes of Electric Air fame), Jimmy Blake, David Slatter, Eddie Gardner, Geoff Eneas (present Head Coach of the Dolphins), Romie Ferriera (Bahamas at Sunrise) and Brent Sturrup, making me, as a nine-year-old train with the 13-and-over group because they knew I could hang with them, and if I could hang with them I would win in my own age group (their theory proved to be correct).
I, in turn, used the same strategy with my younger counterparts coming up, Dorian and Cameron Roach, Timmy Eneas and Gareth Garner, and it worked with them too, as they all had distinguished careers.
It wasn’t only the guys that were competitive, and pushed younger swimmers. The girls in our day were even more fierce!
They actually thought they could beat the boys. I remember the practice battles with the likes of Michelle Fox - yes, Michelle Fox from Sands Beer. Where you think she gets all that hard mouth from? Getting beat by me and the boys in practice, that’s where. She was a multiple local and collegiate champion too, so she gets my respect. Plus Gail Geiselman, Christine Wallace Whitfield (née Bowe), Ann and Susie Glucksman and the most decorated of the bunch, Tietchka Knowles, who, if I’m not mistaken, is the mother of our very own present swimming sensation, Arianna Vanderpool Wallace (props to Daddy Vincent also). Now you see where she gets it from.
My generation put out a lot of “winners” and bore a few too but, more importantly, it made a lot of friends and lasting friendships. Swimming was one of those vehicles that allowed us to do so.
I could have never won as much as I did without the likes of Dake Gonzales, Andrew Thompson, Patrick Tully, Thomas Glucksman, Lorenzo Baragielli, Chad and Owen Shepard, John Pinder, Stevie Albury and the Wiberg brothers nipping at my heels in the pool.
Despite the liquid battles, these are some of my closest friends to this day. We were competitive but, in the end, we remained friends regardless of the results of the races.
So I eagerly await to see how my sons do with swimming - I might have two chips off the old block?
If baseball and JBLN are any indication I think they will do “swimmingly” (terrible pun but I couldn’t resist).
I also hope this generation can be as successful, if not more so than some of the aforementioned names. If you Google them, you will see we’ve done alright for ourselves.
I now find myself with competitive juices flowing from my jowls like Pavlov’s salivating dog. I don’t know why I’m researching the World Masters Swimming Championships in Windsor, Canada, in December 2016 for swimmers in my age group and older.
Don’t call it a comeback ... yet. But I promise to keep you posted. Now, where are my lucky “Speedos”?
In closing this week I would just like to offer my deepest and heartfelt condolences to my wife, Jamie, and the Moss and Bethel families on the passing of the patriarch of the family “GranPa George”. George Bethel, who lived to the ripe old age of 99, passed away on Sunday was a truly brilliant man who earned his rewards here on earth and in Heaven. May his soul rest in peace and may he rise in glory!
Ninety nine years. How many changes in the world, let alone the world of sports, did “GranPa George” witness. Truly amazing.
Until next week, remember “Every champion was a contender who refused to give up.”
• Naughty presents ‘Mischief and Mayhem in da AM’ on KISS FM 96.1 from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday. Comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org