On Friday April 6 Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson won the Silver medal in the 50 metre breaststroke at the Optus Aquatic Centre in Gold Coast Australia in a time of 30.76. That Silver medal performance places her quite suitably as the best performer at the Commonwealth Games in swimming for the region as she now owns three medals.
That breaks the tie for medals won with legendary freestyle swimmer and countrywoman Olympian Janelle Atkinson, who won two Bronze medals at the 2002 Manchester Games. She also elevates swimming to a close third to boxing in terms of medals by Jamaica by the various sporting disciplines. Athletics leads easily with boxing on seven medals , the last of which was won in 1978. Jamaica now has six swimming medals in total. The first medal won was in the 220 yard breaststroke by W.A McCatty at the inaugural Hamilton Games in 1930 when the island only won two medals to include a Bronze medal in athletics. Netball is the only other sport to have won a medal for the nation at the Games in the last three decades.
Only three other nations have graced the medal podium in swimming Guyana, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago through the Silver medal winning efforts of William P Spence in in the 220 yard breaststroke at the 1938 Sydney Games , Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in the 50 metre butterfly at the 2014 Glasgow Games and recently Dylan Carter in the same event when the region won back to back medals on April 6.
Atkinson has also distinguished herself by being the only Games record holder from the region with her 30.17 blast in the semi finals of the 50 metre breaststroke race in Glasgow.
Through her consistency and dedication to her craft she has rightfully deserved her place as the best of all time from the CARIFTA region at this quadrennial event.
The twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago made their first foray into swimming at the Commonwealth Games when the contingent of Laura de Neef , Geoffrey Ferriera and Johny Littlepage competed at the 1966 Games in Kingston Jamaica. Some 52 years later which has seen the participation 17 swimmers at 11 Games the the medal podium breakthrough has been made in the 50 metre butterfly.
After posting times of 23.62 in the heats and 23.90 in the semis ,Carter got the job done with a Silver medal winning performance of 23.67 to finish behind South African Chad Le Clos who took Gold in 23.37. The Bronze medal went to another South African Ryan Coetzee in 23.73.
Just as Carter had held his hand to be counted as one of the best with a Trinidad and Tobago and CARIFTA region first at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Dubai,United Arab Emirates where he won Silver in the same event he provided that chapter changing moment again at Optus Aquatic Centre on April 6 in Gold Coast Australia. Coetzee, is another swimmer successfully navigating senior waters had placed fifth in the 2013 World Junior Championships in the same event.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke General Secretary of CCCAN Maureen Croes today and for asked her thoughts about the progress being made in Caribbean swimming and of Carter’s accomplishments
“Indeed a historic moment!
CCCAN is incredibly proud and excited about this medal. Over the past years, there have been several athletes in the aquatic disciplines from our region who have been able to break into the top. This is an indication that the aquatic disciplines are developing and improving and that our leaders, our coaches, our parents and our athletes are able to find ways to continue their development beyond the age group levels. I think that the combination of the financial help and the availability of clinics, schools and scholarships from FINA and Olympic Solidarity, the cooperation between CCCAN and UANA, and the more professional way that the federations in our region are approaching the aquatics, all contribute to the development. I look forward to seeing more of our athletes winning medals and making finals at big meets like this one”.
No stranger to setting national relay records since making her first national team in 2016 Shaun Johnson had not set any individual national age group records. All that changed in a Bronze medal winning performance in the 50 metre butterfly on Sunday April 1 at the National Aquatic Centre in Kingston Jamaica at the 2018 CARIFTA Championships.
The Georgetown University bound student entered the competition with a personal best time of 29.24. She would register her first sub 29 seconds swim and do that in great fashion as she would also lower the 15-17 national record. The morning heats saw her swimming to a time of 28.72. In making the Championship final she lowered the 15-17 age group record of 28.87 set by Alia Atkinson at the CCCAN Championships in August 2005.
She would have more to offer in the final as she went faster clocking 28.52 to earn the Bronze medal.Silver went Elinah Philip of the British Virgin Islands in 28.29 and the Gold to Curacao’s Chade Nercisio. This performance shows marked improvement since 2017 when she placed eighth in the Championship final in 29.24
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Johnson today and got her opinion about her record breaking performance and her last CARIFTA Championships .
“This CARIFTA was probably my best one yet- I was selected to be a team captain which was made to be a very easy job with the help of the other swimmers, coaches, and team managers. I’ve spent the past few weeks training at Pinecrest with their phenomenal coaches, and they really helped to make this CARIFTA a great one for me- I was able to get early exposure to swimming in LCM and swim alongside other CARIFTA swimmers from other countries as well as Jamaica.
I think it would be an understatement to say how surprised I am about how the butterfly events turned out for me; I haven’t been a flyer for some time now as I have had issues with accommodating stroke rate/strength with my height but Mariusz Podkoscielny really helped me out with that and after working persistently I had great results. I think I performed towards to the level that I have been training to but I will have to continue to work harder for Jamaica and I’m excited to see what that will look like in the future”.
At the 2008 CARIFTA championships in Aruba the 13-14 Jamaica team of Kendese Nangle Backstroke 1:12.20, Victoria Ho breaststroke 1:20.05, Alexia Royal-Eatmon butterfly and Raynae Hall freestyle 1:03.00 turned in a Gold medal winning performance in the 400 metre medley relay of 4:46.29 .That performance was also a national record effort.
Ten years later in Kingston Jamaica the 13-14 line up for Jamaica read Simone Vale backstroke, Sabrina Lyn breaststroke, Zaneta Alvaranga butterfly and Emily MacDonald freestyle. The team was supposed to be fast but what the quartet produced on Sunday April 1 at the National Aquatic Centre was phenomenal.
It was expected for the young ladies to challenge the record and do sub 4:45. But they went well below that passing 4:42, 4;40, 4:38 and beyond 4:35 to smash the national standard. En route to lowering the Jamaican record the fab four also smashed the 2017 CARIFTA record held by Trinidad and Tobago of 4:36.43. The final total time for the Jamaicans was 4:33.81.
Lead off leg Vale saved the best for last in the 100 metre backstroke .She recorded two personal bests in the 100 metre backstroke from the heats and the relay moving from 1:10.02 to her first sub 1 :10 time of 1:09.46.Up next Lyn added a breaststroke blast of 1:21.13. Alvaranga produced a butterfly split of 1:04.54 and MacDonald dropped the hammer with a split of 58.68.Guadeloupe won the Silver in 4:40.01 and Martinique the Bronze in 4:44.13.
The 13-14 girls posted the fastest female time in the event just bettering the time of their countrywomen in the 15-17 age group that won the Gold 4:33.87.
After being denied the 50,100 and 200 metre backstroke sweep in her final year of the 13-14 age group in The Bahamas last year Danielle Titus of Barbados looks on course to achieve that here in Kingston Jamaica in national record breaking fashion .
In The Bahamas Titus earned the Silver in an age group and senior national record of 30.82 in the 50 metre event on the first day competition. Jamaica would prove to offer no problem at the first hurdle as the national standard was lowered to 30.22 in the heats. She would come close to that time in the final stopping the clock in 30.30 finishing ahead of Bermuda’s Madelyn Moore 30.90 and Jamaica’s Brianna Anderson 31.01.
Stage two of the mission was the 100 metre backstroke. She got through the morning heats easily posting the top time of 1:06.03, just missing the Championship record of 1:05.94 set by Lauren Hew of the Cayman Islands in 2017.
The final would witness the registering of a new PB, age group, senior national record and Championship record of 1:04.79.That performance bettered her national record of 1:05.61 and the Youth Olympics B time of 1:05.65. Silver went to Virginia Stamp of The Bahamas in 1:07.52 and Jamaica’s Shaun Johnson who recorded a new personal best time of 1:08.45.
The final leg of the sweep voyage will be the 200 metre backstroke and Titus will expect strong challenges from the Cayman Islands duo of Ella Plunkett and Sam Bailey as well as Stamp from The Bahamas.
There were doubts about how well Jamaica’s Emily MacDonald would do in the 200 metre freestyle as she was known in the region for sprinting exploits in the 11-12 age group .Her record underlined her sprint credentials 2016 CARIFTA Gold in the 50 and 100 free, Silver in the 100 freestyle last year. She had never made a Championship final in the 200 metre freestyle before now.
On April 1 her PB stood at 2:14.70 and she crushed that to post the top time of 2:10.81 and claim the number one seed and Lane 4.Still doubt remained ,as surely the Championship final would be different as questions would be asked of her sprint endurance over the last 100 metres. When the starter’s gun fired as expected it was MacDonald that surged to the front taking the early lead with the a split of 1:02.82 . She flipped and proceeded on the last 100 metres and persons awaited waning speed despite smooth and controlled swimming. They waited and waited. The only thing changing was the distance between Emily and the field .On the final turn she brought in her legs and changed gears and powered to the wall crushing her personal best and the 2009 CARIFTA record of Kimberlee John Williams of 2:09.51 to register a time 2:08.70 , the fastest time by a 13-14 girl at the CARIFTA Championships.
Silver went to Logan Watson-Brown of Bermuda in 2:10.60 and the Bronze to Audrey Moore of the US Virgin Islands in 2:12.23.
With expectations of her endurance firmly changed she is now closing in on a steady bearing on the national record of fellow Bolles alumna CARIFTA legend Olympian Janelle Atkinson (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) of 2:05.07 set way back on Dec 5,1997
Moments after watching teammate Emily MacDonald dominate the girls 13-14 200 free event to win Gold it was up to Britney Williams and Annabella Lyn to carry on the momentum for the Jamaicans in the 15-17 age group and that they did .
Both swimmers are known for being good middle to long distance for the nation and would finish strong. The question would be what tactics would be employed by their competitors. In 2017 in The Bahamas Williams and Lyn finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Annabella clocked 2:11.95 for the third seed into the Championship final while Williams was sixth overall with a time of 2:13.46.
In the final the race played to the strengths of the Jamaicans as the pace was not pushed and no swimmer threatened the minute mark.With 150 metres swum that is when Williams decided to make her move and break from a tightly bunched field and initiated the charge for the final wall. That move proved to be decisive as Williams shifted gears and the field started to separate. Putting on her charge of her own was Swarthmore College bound Lyn .Lilly Higgs of The Bahamas, also responded to Williams break to the front.
In the end Britney did enough to win and held on take her Gold in 2:10.32 ,Higgs outtouched Lyn to repeat last year’s Silver medal winning performance 2:11.03 to 2:11.09.
The joy was evident for Britney as she slapped the water and then waved to the crowd and they responded in kind to the Gold and Bronze by the home team.