At the 2018 CARIFTA in Kingston Jamaica it seemed fitting if not almost poetic that Izaak Bastian of the Bahamas would win the 50 metre freestyle in a Championship record and crown himself the fastest of all time in a country known for its sprinting abilities. Added to that the previous Championship record was also set in Jamaica five years earlier .
In 2017 Bastian had made the medal podium with a Silver medal winning effort in front of his home crowd with a time of 23.76 in the 15-17 age group. That was his PB and his only entry under the 24 seconds barrier. He posted 24.35 to be the fourth fastest heading into the Championship final.That morning swim on April 3 pointed towards another sub 24 clocking as he was 24.33 in the heats in 2017. He would be well under 24 seconds and would be the only swimmer under 23.50 as he took the title and wrote another page in the history books as set a new PB , Championship record and earned himself the moniker of the fastest swimmer at the CARIFTA Championships when he stopped the clock in 23.25. Silver went to Kai Legband of Bermuda in 23.93 and the Bronze to Jack Kirby of Barbados in 24.03.
In 2013 future Olympian Renzo Tjon A Joe (Rio 2016) set the 50 metre freestyle record with a heat swim of 23.37 on April 2.He would take the Gold just off that time as he touched in 23.44 turning back the challenges of the Trinidad and Tobago duo of another future Olympian Dylan Carter (Rio 2016) 23.46 and Joshua Romany 24.27. A year later he would take the Silver in the same event at the CAC Games in Veracruz Mexico with a time of 22.62.
Speaking to Draftingthecaribbean today Bastian recounted that historic swim in Jamaica
“The 50 free was pretty good for me.I knew that I had to get out in front of everyone from the start to get out of the waves and get clear water.I wanted to see what I could do at the start and build on that momentum throughout the race.I did not have a goal time I just wanted to give the race my all and focus on the things we have been working on in practice coming off the block fast , fast breakout. I did not really look at the record before I did not really think I would get the record.It was a big surprise to look up see that I went 23.2”
CARIFTA 2018 in Kingston Jamaica would be the last for University of Miami Ohio bound Bryanna Renuart.t would also in front of her home crowd. Renuart who had been a mainstay in the Jamaican team since the 11-12 age group had been a major points contributor in the breaststroke and individual medley events but had never tasted Gold in an individual event. That would all change on April 1.
Swimming in the second heat of the timed finals of the 400 individual medley in the afternoon she broke free of the field from the opening butterfly leg with a split of 1:10.10. she would not relinquish that lead at any point in the race and in fact built on it to win by more than seven seconds in a new PB of 5:07.30. The Silver went Lilly Higgs of The Bahamas in 5:14.30 and the Bronze to Sam Bailey of The Cayman Islands in 5:19.11.
That ended a five year Gold medal drought for Jamaica as the last time the country was a top of the long medley podium in this category was in 2013 in front of a home crowd through the efforts of Zara Bailey.It was only the third time in the last 20 years that a Jamaican had won the 400 Individual medley in the category for girls. Olympian Alia Atkinson had won Gold as well in 2006.
When Draftingthecaribbean contacted her on April 14 she had this reaction to her Gold medal winning performance
“I really wasn’t expecting to win any individual CARIFTA events because Lilly Higgs is such a dominant swimmer so I was completely shocked. Even during the race I had no idea I was winning. Standing on the top of the podium and hearing the Jamaican anthem playing because of something I accomplished was incredible.The atmosphere at this CARIFTA from my perspective was the most electric swim meet I’ve ever been to. Having a home crowd reminded the Jamaican team how meaningful it is to represent our country and the extra people cheering for us led to some stand-out swims.”
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.