On Saturday July 2, 2016 Alex Sobers punched his ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics when he won the 15 -17 boys 400 metre freestyle emphatically in a time of 3:57.30. With the win, he bettered the Rio 2016 B time of 3:58.51 and the senior national and 15-17 record 3:58.04 set by regional distance standout and Olympian Damian Alleyne (2000, 2004).
Breaking Alleyne’s record should be seen as no mean feat as it lasted for 15 years. Damian dominated regional waters as an age grouper and represented Barbados with distinction at the US school system and internationally having swum for the prestigious Bolles school and the University of Georgia. Sobers career trajectory has been on a similar path as Alleyne’s having represented Barbados at the PAN AM Games the year before the Olympics and setting the national record before the Games. Alex, like Damian will be 17 years of age when he dives off to compete on Saturday August 6 at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Barra Olympic Park.Alex met Damian earlier in 2016 for the first time where Alleyne encouraged to break the record
By posting that time of 3:57.30 Sobers now stands heads and shoulders above all in the English speaking Caribbean in that event. The time betters national senior records set by Olympians from Bahamas where Jeremy Knowles (2000, 2004 and 2008) holds the standard at 3:59.01 ,the Cayman Islands Shaune Fraser (2004,2008) holds the record at 3:57.51 and Olympian to be Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter set his nation’s mark at 3:58.41.
Sobers journey to the top in the event started in Barbados in 2011 when he clocked 4:39.15 for Bronze in the 11-12 age group. But it was when he dipped below 4:10 to win the Silver medal in the 15-17 age group that his potential was really coming to the fore. In 2015 when both CARIFTA and CCCAN were held in Barbados he began his dominance of the event age group when he copped Gold in 4:00.62 and 4:01.05. He would also get his first taste of senior international competition in the 50 metre pool representing his country at the PAN AM Games in Canada 4:00.25 and the World Championships in Kazan Russia 4:05.07. So with continuous flirtation with the 4 minute barrier his breakthrough was not unexpected but rather long anticipated.
Sobers who stands at 6’2 with a wingspan of 6’9 has been under the tutelage of Antonio Petrolando “Coach Tony” for the last 6 years. His training regimen has the swimmer working out Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings and every afternoon. Each session lasts 2 hours. In Rio he will be aiming to better the best time by a Barbadian Swimmer in the event as Alleyne clocked 3:58.12 at the Sydney Games.
On his efforts at the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships Sobers said “My goals were to make the Olympic B time at CISC since this was the last opportunity to make the cut .I tried for it in the prelims but I missed it however I came back in the afternoon and made it. My coach just wanted me to break the 4 minute barrier and make the cut but I would not say I had a specific time in mind” I feel very proud of making the team at this young age”.
After the Rio Games Alex Sobers will be attending Emmanuel College in Georgia. He makes to make a great impact in collegiate swimming for the NCAA Division 2 school as he has done at the regional age group level.