The first day of the Rio 2016 saw a number of the CARIFTA region swimmers making their Olympic debut on the first day of action in the pool on August 6.
The first swimmer in the action was Oreoluwa Cherebin of Grenada. She created history by being the first swimmer to swim that event at the Olympics. She clocked 1:10.40 in the 100 metre butterfly to place 42nd overall. It is also the best finish for Grenada ever at the Olympic Games.
The highest placing on the opening day came from Bermuda’s Julian Fletcher. He clocked 1:02.73, just off his national record of 1:02.47. That had him ranked 40th overall. Fletcher posted the best time by a Bermudan swimmer at the Olympics as he bettered the 1:04.93 done by Chris Flook at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Alex Sobers became only the second swimmer from Barbados to compete in the 400 metre freestyle at the Games when he clocked 3:59.97. Alex finished 44th overall in his Olympic debut. Sobers clocked his second sub 4 minute time for the second best time of his career.
Geoffrey Butler became the first swimmer from the Cayman Islands to compete in the 400 metre freestyle at the Olympics when he clocked 4:07.87 to finish 48th overall.
Dustin Tynes Bahamas National Champion men 200 metre breaststroke
National record holder Dustin Tynes of the Bahamas posted a time of 1:03.71 in the 100 metre breaststroke. That swim puts him as the fastest ever swimmer from his country in the event at the Olympics. The previous Olympic best was 1:11.65 registered by Bruce Knowles at the 1972 Munich Games.
Corey Ollivierre of Grenada became the highest placed male swimmer from the Spice Island after he completed the heats of the 100 metre breaststroke. Corey stopped the clock in 1:08.68 to finish 46th overall. The previously highest placed male swimmer was Omar Hughes who was 57th in the 50 metre freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Emma Harvey of Bermuda competing in the 13-14 girls age group lead the record breakers on Day one of the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships taking place in Nassau Bahamas. The age group standout started her record breaking from the morning heats as she lowered the record of 31.50 set by Jamaican Kendese Nangle in 2008 to 30.38. In the final she would better that time and her age group record of 30.22 to take the title in 30.12.
For the 100 metre butterfly she bested an even older record. Trinidad and Tobago’s Sangeeta Puri had set the standard in 1994 of 1:04.99. It would not survive the morning as Harvey clocked 1:04.68. That time would not last long either as she stopped the clock in the final in 1:04.20.
In the girls 11-12 50 metre backstroke Sade Simons of Suriname set a new mark of 31.98.She became the first 11-12 girl under the 32 second mark as the old record had belonged to Inayah Sherry of Barbados at 32.45.
Another longstanding record would fall in the 15-17 girls 100 metre butterfly. The 1990 standard of Cuba’s Niuvis Rosales fell to Jamaica’s Kelsie Campbell. She swam to a new personal best, age group record and Championship record time of 1:03.48 in the morning heats. She would take the title in the evening in a time of 1:03.63.The previous Jamaican record was set by Zara Bailey at the 2013 CARIFTA Games in Kingston.
Another butterfly record set in Kingston also fell .The standard that was lowered was set at the 2004 edition in the 18 and over men’s age group by Bahamian Olympian Nicholas Rees .He had set a time of 56.02. Bettering that was Suriname’s Zuhayr Pigot. In the morning Pigot clocked 55.56 before becoming the swimmer under 55 seconds at CISC with 54.48 clocking.
The Bahamas home crowd saw its top swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace demolish the 18 and 100 metre butterfly record .She took more than 2 seconds off the old record to register a time of 1:00.01.
The host country Bahamas swept the senior distance freestyle titles when Joanna Evans and Matthew Lowe won the 800 and 1500 metre freestyle races respectively in Championship record times.
The Rio Olympics bound Evans bettered another Janelle Atkinson standard. This time it was 8:48.71 that the Olympian had set in 2002. Janelle would later that summer win 2 bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. The best distance freestyle performance by a female swimmer from the CARIFTA region. Evans in her commanding win was yet again under the Olympic B standard of 8:51.96. Lowe smashed the 2006 record of Trinidad and Tobago’s John Littlepage of 16:57.24. He was more than 30 seconds better as he took the CISC standard to 16:22.01.He was pushed to the record by Bermuda’s Tyler Mazurek who crushed his national record by more than ten seconds to post 16:23.44.
Another event where records were smashed was the 200 metre breaststroke.
In the 11-12 boys age group McCallum Clarke continued his dominance at the regional level with Gold in Championship and national age group record time. This time he stroked his way to 2:36.83 with a winning margin of over ten seconds.
The home fans would again have championship records to cheer on. Izaak Bastian won the 13-14 age group in 2:23.94.His teammate Albury Higgs took the 15-17 girls race in a time of 2:36.83.
Following up on his 15 -17 boys CARIFTA win in Martinique was the USVI Adriel Sanes. In the French territory he was timed in 2:22.86 .In the Bahamas he would be much faster as took the Gold in a record time of 2:19.50.
In the 18 and over category the leading senior breaststroker Jordy Groters of Aruba , Dustin Tynes of the Bahamas and Bermudan Julian Fletcher all battled for the Gold and finished in that order on the podium. All three went under Fletcher’s 2014 record of 2:22.71. Groters won in 2:20.39. Tynes took the Silver in 2:20.97 while Fletcher copped the Bronze in 2:21.24.
The final stops in the ARENA PRO Swim Series were held recently in Santa Clara California from June 3 to 6 and Indianapolis from June 3 to 5. The CARIFTA region’s performances at these meets were highlighted by the good performances turned by Bahamian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and the US Virgin Islands Rex Tullius.
In Indianapolis Vanderpool-Wallace reaffirmed why she is not only one of the best sprinters in the Caribbean but also the World. In the shortest sprint on offer, the 50 metre freestyle she claimed lane 4 for the final with a 25.03 performance. In the final after a fairly even start for the field Arianna broke from the pack at 25 metres with terrific top end speed to punch the clock in 24.84. That time was the only sub 25 clocking of race. That performance equalled her second fastest time of the season done in Austin Texas and is just off her 24.80 which has her ranked 22nd in the world this season.
In the 100 metre freestyle she cruised into the final with her third fastest swim of the season of 54.85. In the final she unleashed a 25.99 first 50 metres for which the competition had no answer. They would have no solution to her closing speed and split of 28.19 , again the fastest of the final as she touched in for the win in a season best time of 54.18.With that season best she is now ranked 26th in the world.
Also in good form heading into the Rio in Indianapolis was Rex Tullius of the US Virgin Islands. Tullius recorded a season best time to win the Silver medal in the 100 metre backstroke. Putting up splits of 26.61 and 28.46 he posted a time of 55.07 bettering the 55.12 he swam in March. He continues to close in on the automatic qualifying mark of 54.36. In the longer race the 200 metre backstroke he again copped Silver. This time he just missed setting another season best. With splits of 59.58 and 1:00.69 he produced a Championship final time of 2:00.27. He just missed dipping under the 2 minute barrier again for the season after posting a season best of 1:59.52 in March. It was still well under the Rio B time of 2:02.36.
Laura Morley of the Bahamas earned an evening swim in the 200 metre breaststroke when she placed 4th in the D final. Her time was 2:37.20 (split 1:14.87). In the shorter breaststroke, the 100 metres she ranked 36th with 1:13.50 (split 34.71) performance.
Also in action at the meet was Jamaican Justin Plaschka .Still in heavy training and not tapered he used the meet to remain race sharp. He clocked 57.28 (split 26.13) for 39th in the 100 metre butterfly. He was 38th in the 50 metre freestyle in 23.88.In the 100 metre freestyle he was 64th in a time of 53.22 (split 25.58).
Meanwhile in Santa Clara Julian Fletcher of Bermuda was getting back to his preparations for Rio after making his target time of 1:02.69.Fletcher attained the B standard with his national record swim of 1:02.47 at the Validus Bermuda National Long Course Championships in May. In California Julian won the D final of the 200 metre breaststroke in a time of 2:22.86 (split time 1:09.86).Fletcher was 4th in the C final of the 100 metre breaststroke with a time of 1:04.18(split time of 30.15)
Day 2 of the Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa in Arizona on Friday April 15 saw the national record holders from the Bahamas Joanna Evans and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace taking centre. Both ladies at different ends of the freestyle spectrum made Championship finals .Evans would make the 400 freestyle final and Vanderpool-Wallace the 50 freestyle final. The meet had been hit by heavy winds which seemed to have an effect on the times produced.
Joanna Evans who is on course to become the best distance freestyler the CARIFTA region has produced had broken her national record in the 200 metre freestyle on the opening day and seemed on course to break her national record in the morning heats of the 400 freestyle. On August 22, 2014 Evans had set her country’s standard of 4:12.14 in Nanjing China at the 2014 Youth Olympics with her historic 5th place finish. In 2014 she had gone out in 2:04.46 for the first 200 metres. In 2016 she covered the first half of the race in 2:04.14 .She would finish with a 2:08.33 split for a total time of 4:12.47 just missing her national mark. That would crush her season best of 4:17.06 recorded in Texas in January and be easily under the 2016 Rio Olympics B time of 4:17.80.In a very competitive final which featured World Record Holder American Katie Ledecky, 2008 Olympic Silver medallist Denmark’s Lotte Friis, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu , 2012 Olympic 400 freestyle Silver medallist Allison Schmitt Evans finished 8th in a time of 4:18.73.
Her countrywoman Vanderpool-Wallace (SwimMac Carolina) who is ranked 20th in the world this season with her season best of 24.80 worked her way into the final of the one lap sprint with 25.22 clocking . In that final improved her morning time in what would be choppy waters due to the wind. With the same reaction time of .63 from the morning she lowered her time to 25.14 to place 6th overall.
Bermuda’s top breaststroker Julian Fletcher (Trojan Swim club) who recently lowered his 200 metre breaststroke record to 2:18.54 at the Canadian Olympic trials was another regional swimmer earning an evening swim. In the morning his split was 1:08.04 on his way to a time of 2:19.34. That earned him a place in the B final where he finished 7th in a time of 2:22.51.
Aruba’s breastroke standard bearer Jordy Groters earned a second swim when he clocked 2:23.11 (split time 1:08.11).In the D final he finished 6th in a time of 2:25.37.
In the men’s 50 freestyle Trinidad and Tobago representative Caryle Blondell was the region’s top sprinter at the meet. After clocking 23.41 in the heats he would go on to win the D final in 23.23. A man working his way back to top form after a serious injury layoff was Bermuda’s Roy Burch. After clocking a season best of 23.78 at the Canadian Olympic trials he recorded another season best of 23.43. In the D final he was just off that time with 23.63 placing him 5th.
Jamaica’s Timothy Wynter competing in the 100 metre backstroke just missed his season best of 57.66 in the morning heats. He clocked a time of 57.97 (split 27.55) to make it to the C final. In that evening swim he finished 2nd in a time of 58.85.
Countrywoman Olympian Alia Atkinson posted a time of 2:38.11 (split 1:15.01) in the 200 metre breaststroke. In the D final she finished 8th in a time of 2:45.68.
Aruban national record holder in the 50 metre freestyle Mikel Schreuders finished 57th in a time of 24.66.
The opening day of the Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa in Arizona on Thursday April 14 saw the CARIFTA region’s stars in action. Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson was the lone swimmer to make a championship final. However two national records fell to Joanna Evans of the Bahamas and Julian Fletcher of Bermuda.
Atkinson who represents South Florida Aquatics qualified easily for the final of her main event the 100 metre breaststroke when she touched the final wall in 1:08.47 (split time 32.55). In the final she would face a quality field which had a strong American contingent to include 2015 PAN AM Games Champion Katie Meili, World Record holder Jessica Hardy, and rising star Molly Hannis. The opening 50 saw Meili in Lane 4 and Atkinson in Lane 7 separating themselves from the field with their opening splits of 31.34 and 31.37. In the drive to the finish Meili would take the win in a time of 1:06.49, Atkinson would win the Silver medal in a time of 1:06.84. That is the 7th fastest time of Atkinson career .Since 2013 Atkinson has always finished in the top 2 at this stop of the Pro Swim Series. It was again easily under the 2016 Rio Olympics automatic qualifying mark of 1:07.85
Joanna Evans of the Bahamas who just completed a great debut collegiate season with the University of Texas had her first long course meet since the NCAA Division 1 Championships in March. Swimming only in the morning heats of the 200 metre freestyle she lowered her national record of 2:03.00 .At her last CARIFTA championships she had set a new 15-17 and senior national record of 2:03.00.In 2015 she took out the first 100 metres in 1:00.09.This time she covered the first half of the race in 1:00.09 and finished the last 100 metres in 1:02.47 to record a new senior national record of 2:02.51.Her performance was under the Rio 2016 Olympic B time of 2:03.13
Bermudan Julian Fletcher who represents Trojan swim club has been the standard bearer for his nation in the breaststroke events . At the Canadian Olympic trials held recently he came close to lowering his 2012 mark in the 100 metre breaststroke of 1:03.58 when he produced a time of 1:03.63. There would be no close miss in Arizona. In the morning heats his first 50 was timed at 29.95.He used that early momentum to touch the wall in a new national record of 1:03.51 .He would make it back for an evening swim in the C final. In that final He would go out faster with a split of 29.62 to lead the field coming home. He would be edged for the win by Steve Stumph who won in 1:03.02.Fletcher would drop time again to get second place in a time of 1:03.11 and yet another national record. Fletcher continues to get closer to the Rio 2016 Olympic B time of 1:02.69.
Other CARIFTA region swimmers in action included Aruban Jordy Groters who made the B final of the 100 metre breaststroke. Groters came close to his national record of 1:03.22 when he turned in a time of 1:03.47 (split time 29.53) in the morning heats. He finished 8th in the B final in a time of 1:03.80. Countryman and teammate at University of Missouri Mikel Schreuders posted 1:57.12 (split time 56.17) for 52nd overall in the 200 metre freestyle. Jamaican Timothy Wynter was 43rd in the 100 metre butterfly with a time of 58.04 (split time 27.43).Bahamian sprint star Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace posted a time of 1:00.58 (split time 27.26) in the heats of the 100 metre butterfly. That performance was under the RIO 2016 B time of 1:00.80.
On the final night of the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson won Silver in her signature event the 100 metre breaststroke.
In the morning preliminaries Atkinson, the world leader for the 2015-2016 rankings opened with an automatic Olympic qualifying time 1:07.38 (split time 31.57) to make her second Championship final. Heading into the final with the Jamaican would be Pan American Gold medallist Katie Meili, former World Record holder Jessica Hardy, rising Star Molly Hannis and Atkinson’s college team mate and fellow Olympic 100 metre breaststroke finalist at the London 2012 Olympics Breeja Larson. In the final Atkinson went off to another quick start to lead the field at the 50 metre with a split of 31.47. In the last few metres of the race Meili would close and win the race in a time of 1:06.75 .Atkinson earned the Silver in 1:07.47 and Hannis the Bronze in 1:07.50.
Another CARIFTA region swimmer making two Championship finals was Rex Tullius of the US Virgin Islands. Competing in the heats of the 100 metre backstroke Rex stroked his way to a time of 55.45 (split 26.61) to be 7th heading into the final. That performance was also under the Olympic B standard time of 56.26. He would again be under that time standard as he maintained his position to finish in a slightly slower time of 55.57 (split 26.72).
Also getting under the 56.26 barrier was Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter. In the morning preliminaries he earned a second swim when he was timed at 56.65 (split 27.11).In the C final he lead the field at the 50 metre turn with a split time 26.79. He was passed by two swimmers on the last lap to finish 3rd in a time of 56.13 and be under the Olympic B standard. His 2015 -2016 season best stands at 55.53 done in December at the 2015(Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago) ASATT’s Invitational.
Joanna Evans recorded the final Olympic B standard time of the meet for the CARIFTA region when she competed in the 800 metre freestyle. Evans beat her season best of 8:51.93 to place 16th in a time of 8:50.86 (split 4:20.00) .That bettered the Rio 2016 B standard of 8:51.96. The event was highlighted by the World record swim of American Katie Ledecky who lowered her own global standard from 8:07.39 to 8:06.68.
Aruban national record holder Daniella Van Den Berg placed 41st overall in the event with a time of 9:10.23 (split 4:30.73).
In the 100 metre breaststroke event Bermudan national record holder Lisa Blackburn lowered her season best of 1:14.67 to 1:14.11 (split time 34.75).Countryman and fellow national record holder Julian Fletcher was just off his season best in the male equivalent when he touched the pads in 1:04.89 (split time 30.35) for 35th overall. His season best stands at 1:04.23. Aruban record holder Jordy Groters placed 39th with his morning effort of 1:05.33 (split time 30.93).
Blackburn recorded a time of 2:31.31 for 87th overall for her first swim this season in the 200 metre individual medley.
Jamaica’s Keanan Dols continued to enhance his reputation as one the best age group swimmers the country has ever produced with another sterling senior national record performance in the 200 metre backstroke. Before the final day of the AT&T Winter championships on Saturday Dec 5 Dols held the 15-17 and senior national record at 2:05.08. In the heats of the event Keanan produced a time of 2:05.96 rattling his personal and national standard.
Qualifying for the C final the Florida based teenager made his intentions known from the first 50 metres splitting at 29.15 much faster than the 29.77 opening 50 metres he did in Singapore at the World Junior Championships when he set the record. With the tone set for the race Dols held 50 metre splits of below 32 seconds finish 3rd in a new senior national and 15-17 age group record of 2:04.01. Dols continues to get closer the Rio 2016 Olympics B standard of 2:02.36.The 200 metre backstroke record is the 2nd 15-17 record to fall to Dols in Washington following his 15-17 standard breaker of 2:07.26 on the first day.
Also performing well on the day was Suriname’s Renzo Tjon a Joe. The national record holder in the 100 metre produced a season best time of 49.72 to qualify for the B final. He almost produced an identical time with a 3rd place performance of 49.76. Renzo was well under his previous season best of 50.27 done at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Minneapolis and yet again under the Rio 2016 Olympics B standard of 50.70.
Also registering season best in the 100 metre freestyle were the Trinidad and Tobago duo of Dylan Carter and Joshua Romany. Carter improved upon his 51.27 to finish 37th in 50.87. Romany moved down from 51.94 to finish in 51.17 and finish 51st.
Timothy Wynter of Jamaica swam his first 200 metre race of the 2015-2016. He stopped the clock in 2:07.60 not far off the 2:07.17 he registered at the 2015 PAN AM Games when he was fully tapered and rested.
In time trial results Dols clocked a personal best of 57.14 in the 100 metre butterfly.Wynter stopped the clock in 24.98 in the 50 metre freestyle faster than the 25.14 he recorded last season. Bahamian Armando Moss put up a time of 24.54. Bermuda’s Rebecca Heyliger sprinted to 26.75 in the women’s equivalent faster than what she did in the heats of the event. She contested another time trial and was even faster touching in 26.66. Moss swam 53.45 in the 100 metre freestyle.