Making waves

Talent aplenty but coach concerned over swimming undercurrents

Barbados has got great swimming talent but there are factors that continue to impede the progress of the brightest prospects.

That’s the suggestion from Abdul Sharif, head coach of the Barbados team that recently returned home from the XXIX CARIFTA Swimming Championships held at the Pisina Olimpico Roly Bissilik pool in Savaneta, Aruba. Sharif told Barbados TODAY that even though there was talent, the standard of swimming in Barbados was not at a consistent level to push athletes to their full potential.

Abdul Sharif
Abdul Sharif

“On the island you will find a kid as talented or gifted as Christian Selby, but who lacks the incentives to push himself beyond the present limit because the standard of swimming in Barbados is not consistently at that [high] level. I say that because we have individuals who would rise to that level. But
to have a cadre of swimmers at that level in a small community like ours is understandably a challenge.

Christian Selby with Hannah Gill
Christian Selby with Hannah Gill

“So we can develop the kids to a level like that and we can carry them further as well but the environment on the island is not conducive to elite swimming at the senior level at this moment and it is because of [lack of ] competition. You need competition in everything that you do in order to excel and if you are the top athlete and you can win without pushing yourself, you don’t have that incentive to push yourself. But when you get into an environment where you have to push yourself then you will rise to your full potential,” Sharif said.

Sharif, who is also the coach of Pirates Swim Club, said one of the main challenges which the swimmers faced especially at the adolescent stage was being too distracted with all that was happening around them. He added due to that fact Barbados had lost some reasonably good talent.

“We had swimmers like Shawn Clarke who had a strong desire and almost went the full distance after qualifying for the last Olympics, but after the rules got changed he did not compete and that was a great disappointment. On the island you can’t really say we could do with more funds, more equipment and better facilities. That is not the main problem.

“The main problem is the distraction at the adolescent stage and that is why when kids have the kind of ability that Christian Selby has it is to the advantage of Barbados’ swimming in general that we get them into an environment where everybody is trying to get to the Olympics and nobody is being distracted by the parties or the fetes or the trivial adolescent exploits. Obviously in a larger society you would have distractions as well but what you would also have is a larger number of people dedicated to the sport and wanting to get to the Olympics,” Sharif noted.

The head coach attributed Barbados’ success at the recently completed championships in Aruba to hard work and dedication.

He stated the swimmers were very committed and the assistant coach Antiono Petrolanda along with the parents played a vital role in their achievements. The Barbados team won a whopping 31 medals to be fifth overall in the medals tally. These included ten gold, 14 silver and eight bronze. Barbados came sixth overall in the points standing with 437.50.

“Hard work, dedication and commitment I would think on behalf of the swimmers, and we have to give the parents some credit because age group swimmers cannot get to the pool on their own, they cannot feed or clothe themselves. In all of this it is like a triumph, you have the coaches, swimmers and parents working closely together and if that does not happen, then success cannot be guaranteed, so it is all in the preparation,” Sharif said.

There were eight individual age group records that were broken and two national open records in the relays. Among the golden performances was junior swimmer, Danielle Titus. She took part in CARIFTA for the first time and established two new national records by going under the CARIFTA 50m backstroke record of 32.26 to post a new time of 32.22. While in the 100m backstroke she erased Inayah Sherry’s previous record of 1:10.45 set in 2010 while clocking 1:09.00 in the preliminary.

Selby continues to show that he is definitely a prospect to look out for in the near future and his excellent form in Aruba demonstrated that. Selby, who is currently studying abroad, dominated the 200m freestyle in a time of 1:53.58 which was just outside the Youth Olympic “A” qualifying time of 1:53.57. He also captured gold in the 1500m freestyle in 16:28.53.

“We have some bright and upcoming talent and Danielle Titus who is personally coached by Antiono Petrolanda is one such athlete who is definitely one for the future. Christian also has lots of ability and I expect him to go the full distance because from the time I started coaching him from nine years old his parents and I decided that instead of going for short term goals we would go for long-term goals and we will prepare him in a manner that would equip him with all the skills necessary to take him to the next level. And he has done extremely well and we are very pleased with his continuous success,” Sharif said.

The coach also pointed out that the boys’ 13 to 14 year old swimmers were a strong group which included Damon St Prix, Jack Kirby and Luis Sebastian-Weekes. He added that they hoped to keep them together right through to the Olympic stage.

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