Fraser encourages young swimmers

Brett Fraser mingled with young swimmers at the awards dinner (Photo courtesy CIASA)

Two-time Olympian Brett Fraser used a recent visit home to provide words of inspiration and encouragement to Cayman’s young swimmers. Fraser was the featured speaker at the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) awards dinner on Sunday, 22 January.

Fraser, 29, who no longer swims competitively, recalled the ups and downs of his career and how training as an athlete can impact someone’s life away from sports.

“Success comes in many different ways. There are very common attributes that I think at a very young age it is important to realise how you can be the best person you can be, whether it is inside of the water or outside of the water,” he told the gathering at Grand Old House.

“The skills that you’ll learn from being an athlete, especially a swimmer, are very translatable into professional careers and education,” he said, noting that the dedication and commitment are two of those traits.

The University of Florida alum still holds several CIASA and Cayman Islands national records, and while he has been one of the islands’ most successful swimmers, the 2011 Pan American Games gold medallist in the 200-metre freestyle recalled how he nearly called it quits before reaching those heights.

Fraser said he momentarily walked away from the sport after Hurricane Ivan damaged local facilities.

“Since I didn’t have access to a pool at the time and I didn’t feel strongly about swimming, I decided to take time away from the sport and call it quits. During that time, I was able to achieve a sense of clarity and understand what I really wanted in life and that was swimming. Swimming made me happy,” he said.

“I returned to the sport with a new attitude and my reformed attitude and fresh perspective were the changes I needed to be the best athlete I could be.”

Most improved Boys 15-17 swimmer Rory Barrett holds Fraser’s Pan Am Games gold medal. (photo courtesy CIASA)

After getting back into competition, Fraser, who competed locally for Stingray Swim Club, said his “first big swimming moment” happened at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Cartagena, Colombia in 2006.

“I was not that great of a swimmer by Cayman Islands standards and I really wanted to work hard to be that swimmer that I knew I could be. Taking the opportunity such as the CAC Games, even at practice every day, I set goals for myself and motivated myself to attend university in the United States,” he said.

“To get there, I knew that I had to perform in a way that would be appealing to coaches in those said schools.”

With that motivation, he made the Florida Gators team as a walk-on (making the team without a sports scholarship). “I took the opportunity and grasped it,” he told the young swimmers.

Fraser explained that after making his first Olympics in Beijing in 2008, he continued to set higher goals. That motivation helped him to advance to the semi-finals of the 100 and 200-metre freestyle races at the London games in 2012.

“Lofty goals will always be challenging and seem unattainable at times but with persistence and dedication, you’ll make strides and come closer to realising those goals with every passing day,” he told the swimmers before handing out awards to the top performers of 2016.

Cayman’s first Pan Am Games gold medallist told the youngsters to leverage their team-mates for support and to be a leader by pushing their team-mates to do better. In addition, he advised them to surround themselves with successful people.

“Learning from people who have already done what you want to achieve is a really good way for you to understand how you can achieve those goals,” said Fraser, who was one of three flag bearers for the Cayman Islands at the 2008 Olympics.

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