2016: A good year for Cayman swimming

Lara Butler made a splash in her Olympic debut. (Photo courtesy CIOC)

The President of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) has described 2016 as a very good year for the national programme after good performances, including record-setting marks at international meets.

“We’re on a path where we’re continuing to get better and improving at every level,” Michael Lockwood said during a December appearance on the Saturday Sports Show on Star 92.7FM.

Sabine Ellison won four gold and a silver at CARIFTA.

At the CARIFTA Swimming Championships in Martinique, Cayman won 15 medals, seven of them gold, for a seventh overall team finish in the pool and second in the open water competition. Sabine Ellison led the way with four gold and a silver in the pool, while Catriona McRae and John Bodden led the charge with top of the podium finishes in the open water.

“2016 was a very good year with our CARIFTA times and medals and then we went to the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships. The different clubs had other summer meets and they were able to drop times,” Lockwood said.

The Cayman Islands was represented in the pool at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero by the sibling duo of Lara and Geoffrey Butler.

Lara ended her competitive career on a high. Despite finishing sixth in her heat for the women’s 100-metre backstroke, the first-time Olympian touched the wall in a lifetime best time of 1:04.98 – CIASA record and a Cayman Islands national record.

“The Olympics, that is the pinnacle of swimming, this is the best thing, so if I do end I couldn’t end on a better note than this,” she said at the time.

Lara and Geoffrey Butler made their Olympic debuts in Rio. (photo courtesy CIOC)

Meantime, Geoffrey won his heat for the 400-metre freestyle but did not advance to the final.

“We had Lara and Geoff go to Rio and experience that. It has been a very good year, I find,” Lockwood noted.

The year of international swimming was capped off by a solid showing at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Windsor, Ontario in December. Lauren Hew, Alex McCallum and Ali Jackson were Cayman’s representatives in Canada.

Hew, who has also been doing well for her school in Florida, set new national and CIASA marks in the women’s 100-metre backstroke (1:03.35), 200-metre freestyle (2:03.46), and 100-metre freestyle (56.99).

14-year-old Jackson, who was swimming at her first world championships, also returned home with a new national and CIASA record of 59.24 seconds for the Girls 13-14 age group for the 100-metre freestyle.

McCallum was another to make his world championship debut. He turned in multiple lifetime best performances, including the 100-metre freestyle in his last event when he touched the wall in 52.20 seconds.

Cayman's World Championships trio

L-R: Alison Jackson, Alex McCallum, Lauren Hew (courtesy: CIASA)

“It was a very good meet for our swimmers overall. All three of them swam well, performed well, dropped time – which is what we really want,” said the CIASA president, who was on hand in Windsor. “Getting to watch Ali and Alex in their first world championships was very special.”

“It goes to show the swimmers are all working hard at every level and the state of our swim programme is improving and I’m hoping that in the coming years, we’ll be getting more athletes qualifying at this level and seeing them go on to bigger and better things,” Lockwood said.

Among the major events in the first part of 2017 are the annual Olympic weekend featuring Olympian Brett Fraser on 22 January. The CIASA National Championships take place in February ahead of CARIFTA, which is being held in the Bahamas this year the week after Easter.

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