Generally there have been a marked improvement in the performances of national swimmers over the past year.
Most of the swimmers recorded personal bests in a number of events but the goals of winning team and individual medals at major regional and international swim meets are still to be achieved.
However, while local swimmers continued to break national records and improve on their own times, making a consistent mark on the regional scene much less internationally, still eluded the grasp of their collective fingers and feet.
Last month, four local swimming clubs, with the help of sponsorship from a number of private businesses, corporations, individuals and through fund-raising efforts, participated in an international invitational swim meet in Trinidad.
The meet, which is organized annually by the Amateur Swimming Associa-tion of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT) was held at the Marlins Swimming Pool at St Anthony’s College ground in West Moorings in mid-December.
Though Guyana, through its clubs, secured only four medals at the highly competitive event, an indication of the potential to be tapped by the swimmers if only a fraction of the right facilities were made available was very much evident.
The ASATT meet was also probably one competition where the largest number of Guyanese swimmers entered individual events apart from the annual Goodwill games between Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, and T&T.
Their performances would be rated credible given the lack of swimming facilities and time allocated for swimming by the Colgrain Swimming pool and the only acceptable pool that can be used for developmental competitions, the Castellani Swimming Pool.
A total of about 27 local swimmers took part in the four-day ASATT event – eight from Dorado Speed Swim Club; eight from Silver Sharks; seven from Orca; and four from Dolphin which attracted over 300 swimmers from Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and of course Guyana.
Most of the swimmers participate in the ASATT meet seeking qualifying times in a 50-metre pool for regional and international swimming competitions.
Described as one of the largest swim meets in the Caribbean, the ASATT meet had, in the past, attracted participation from all corners of the Caribbean not to mention Miami, USA.
Maybe because of the global financial crisis and high airfares, participation this year was not as extensive as it has been in the past.
Of the four medals three, were won by Ronaldo Rodrigues while the fourth medal was won by Henk Lowe.
Rodrigues of Silver Sharks Swim Club, swimming in the boys 11-12 age group, won two gold medals in the 50 and 100-metre breaststroke ev-ents and a silver medal in the 200-metre breaststroke race.
He made the Central American Caribbean games qualifying times in the 200m breaststoke in a time of 2:52:95s and in the 50m breaststroke in a time of 34:96s. He made the CARIFTA Games qualifying times in all three events.
Lowe of Dorado swimming in the boys’ 15-and-over copped a bronze in the 1,500 metre freestyle event.
The two were easily the most outstanding swimmers at the meet although the majority of the Guyanese swimmers did show marked improvement on their entry times which were based on times achieved in the 25-metre pool and then converted.
Rodrigues was also seventh in the 50-metre butterfly and eighth in the 200-metre individual medley while Lowe, competing in the long distance events placed sixth in the 400-metre freestyle and seventh in the 200-metre back stroke events.
Seasoned campaigner Niall Roberts of Dorado, swimming in the 15-and-over age group made qualifying times for the Carifta Swimming championships to be held in Aruba in April.
Roberts was fourth in the 50-metre butterfly event where he qualified for the Carifta games; fifth in the 100-metre butterfly; fifth in the 50-metre freestyle and seventh in the 200-metre butterfly events.
Lowe, Rodrigues and Roberts, who began swimming since their early childhood, have had exposure to competitive swimming at the national competitions and limited exposure at the regional levels at the Goodwill Games held be-tween Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and more recently Barbados; and the St Lucia Annual International invitational.
Rodrigues and Roberts took part in the last junior Carifta swimming championships held in Aruba.
In Roberts’s case, he has also taken part in a number of international meets including regional and international swimming championships held in Colombia, Brazil, Australia and last year’s Olympic Games held in Beijing, China.
They are yet to medal at the highest level.
Guyana has only had one swimmer medalling at the Carifta Games and that was Jessica Stephenson. Stephenson, a member of the Marlins Swim Club in Trinidad and Tobago, has the added advantage of the training facility and a more competitive environment.
Local national swimmers on the other hand, have at their disposal, one 25-yard pool and limited pool time at the 25-metre Castellani Pool, courtesy of the Government of Guyana.
For the majority of the Guyanese swimmers it was the first time at the T&T meet that many of the swimmers were swimming in a 50-metre pool and many have been overwhelmed by the length and width of the eight-lane facility.
The majority of the swimmers have said that because their bodies are conditioned through training to a 25-metre pool they automatically prepare for flip turns at the 25 metre mark thereby slowing them down in the process.
They also train and take part in local competitions without the use of starting blocks and in regional an international competitions starting blocks are imperatives.
Inspite of the handicaps back home, Guyana had 13 swimmers who were among the top eight at the end of a number of events.
Apart from the three already mentioned, Britney van Lange, Athena Gaskin, Telena Smith, Aureyah Payne, Soroya Simmons, Accalia Khan, Jamal Sobers, Serrano Gonsalves, Baele Hasbrouck, Noelle Smith and Allan Lowe were among the top eight rubbing shoulders with swimmers who have at least competed at the junior Carifta swimming championship level and won medals to their credit.
Gaskin, who swam in the girls 11-12 age group, placed fourth in the 200-metre breaststroke, eighth in the 400-metre freestyle, seventh in the 100-metre freestyle, and eighth in the 100-metre breaststroke events.
Payne was fourth in the 11-12 girls 50-metre backstroke event.
The swimmers often describe the transition from a 25-metre pool in Guyana to the 50-metre as a “never ending pool.”
Van Lange, competing in the girls 11-12 age category, was second in her heat but placed sixth overall in the 400-metre freestyle.
She was swimming for the first time in a 50-metre pool, appeared undaunted by the sheer size and declared at the end of the event that, “We must get a 50-metre pool in Guyana.”
Told that the construction of the pool was underway, she insisted that “we must get it quickly.”
Well, Stabroek Sports understands that there are some engineering design problems which need to be corrected.
The problems, which include the driving of piles and the laying of pipelines, will incur additional costs.
Meanwhile, work has been stalled on the swimming facility, which is expected to be one of the most modern in the Caribbean boasting the only diving pool of international competition standards.
The construction of a 50-metre pool was announced by the government in 2007 and budgetary allocation for the commencement of the pool was made last year.
Work began on a swimming complex last year and it was expected that at least part of the facility would have been completed by the end of last year.
This has not happened.
At present the incomplete dug-out diving pool is filled with water but from the floods currently being experienced due to the current heavy rainfall and inadequate drainage in the city and its environs.
The new swimming facility for Guyana, when completed, is supposed to be one of most modern in the Caribbean equipped with a diving pool, and a 25-metre warm down pool.