By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Lamar Taylor remembers when he was a rookie on the senior national swim- ming team. Now he’s going in as the top athlete to watch from The Bahamas at the World Aquatics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha, Qatar.
Taylor, 19, will be leaving Arkadelphia, Arkansas on Friday where he attends Henderson State University. Joining Taylor on the team for the championships, scheduled for February 11-18, will be Rhanishka Gibbs, Victoria Russell and Marvin Johnson.
The team will be managed by internationally certified official Gina Culmer-Taylor and coached by Camron Bruney. The physiotherapist will be Cordero Bonamy. At the championships, Taylor will be contesting the men’s 50 metres freestyle, back- stroke and butterfly.
“Right after Worlds, I have to come right back and get ready for a conference meet,” Taylor said. “So hopefully at Worlds, I can just go out there and have some fun and try not to put any pressure on me.
“I want to get a good feeling for my sprinting so when I come back for the conference, I will be faster and more prepared. I just don’t want to put too much stress on my body. I still have a long season to go and not risk anything like me getting sick or injured.”
As the top competitor to watch for the Bahamas, Taylor said he doesn’t feel any stress.
“When I was younger and was a rookie or a freshman, as was one of the new kids on the team,” he reflected. “Now I am one of the older guys on the team and it kind of feels special in a way, but I don’t look at it like these guys are below me or younger than me.
“They are all adults now and everyone at this level has worked hard enough to get here and they deserve to be treated like top-tier athletes and not be treated like a kid. But going into this meet, it does feel special being one of the top athletes. But I am not going to add any stress on myself.”
Not to sound cocky but rather confident, Taylor said it doesn’t matter who lines up with him in the pool, he’s going to be prepared to go out and give it his best shot.
“Obviously since I am here and these guys are here, let’s make the best out of the situation and make something happen,” Taylor stated.
This year is a special year for Taylor because he will have the opportunity to go after the two medals he’s missing from his collection at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
He has not yet qualified for the Olympics, but he feels if he can get a chance to come back for a second swim in any of his events, he would have a better chance to get his first World Championship medal to go along with his gold at last year’s Central American and Caribbean games and bronze at the Pan American Games.
“The Worlds and the Olympics are the only two medals missing,” he stated.
“Anything could happen at the games. If I make a final appearance, I have a chance. So I just have to go out and swim hard in the morning and make some- thing happen. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t. It’s just not in God’s plan. But once I put in the work and trust in God’s plan, it should happen.”
As for the Olympics in Paris, France in July, Taylor is about seven seconds off the qualifying time for the 50m free and about 5.0 off the times in both the 100m free and 100m back.
“This is the closest that I’ve been to all of my cuts so I haven’t shaved or tapered down for any of my meets so far,” he said.
“So I know I am capable of doing it. I have to do it without being shaved down or tapered down. So for the Olympics, I still have more time to get the cuts, so I will see how it goes.”
In preparation for the championships, Taylor said he will still be training in Doha to ensure that he is properly prepared when he returns to Arkansas to get ready for his conference meet.
Gibbs, 17, now at Texas Christian University, was a finalist in the 60m breast at the CAC Games. She will be entered in the 50m free and 100m breaststroke.
Russell, 22 and enrolled at Edinburgh University, will contest the 50m backstroke and butterfly and Johnson, who is 17 and attends McCallie Boarding School, will be entered in the 100m freestyle and butterfly.
Taylor advised the other members of Team Bahamas to go out and have fun. “You have made it this far, so have fun, swim to the best of your ability and try to make a name for yourself,” he said. “Don’t put any stress on yourself, have fun, swim fast and make a name for yourself.”
With this being his fifth appearance at the Worlds, Taylor said it’s always good to have some familiar faces in the stands but, more importantly this time around, it’s more gratifying that his mother Gina Culmer-Taylor will be the team manager.
“It’s always a confidence booster knowing that my mom will be there to ensure that I am at my best in the pool,” he summed up. “So it’s going to be a confidence booster for me there.”