Bajan swimmers shine at Open Water Festival

Barbadian junior swimmer McKayla Treasure recently narrowly defeated renowned US national champion masters swimmer and former professional triathlete Eney Jones with a time of  (20:15.23) in the 1.5k at the annual Open Water Festival.

(From left) McKayla Treasure, Luis Weekes, Taylor Abbott and Kobi Talma.
(From left) McKayla Treasure, Luis Weekes, Taylor Abbott and Kobi Talma.

However, the evergreen Jones returned the next day and clinched victory in the 5k.  Rebecca Lashley of Barbados also had excellent results taking third position in the 1.5k and finishing second in the 5k.

Overall the Barbadian junior swimmers had an outstanding weekend with high-level performances especially in the 1.5k where they dominated the top ten.  In addition to Treasure and Lashley in the 1.5K, Danielle Clarke (4th), Danielle Treasure (5th), Aza Dunwoody (6th) and Keilani Talma (7th) also performed creditably.

In the men’s 1.5k, Luis Weekes (2nd) and Kobi talma (3rd) were followed by Jason Wilson, Nkosi Dunwoody, Akeem Nurse and McCallum Clarke.  In the 5k Barbadians Kristiana Ram, Sabrina Pierce, Eric Lashley and Cody Oneal turned in solid performances to place in their respective age groups. Taylor Abbott of the USA was victorious in both the 1.5 and 5K races. A 2014 world junior Open Water champion and recent silver medallist in the 1500m (18 and Under) in Singapore, Abbott clocked 17:41.81 in the 1.5k race and 57:16.01 in the 5K.

However, there was a bit of controversy in the 5k. A fierce battle had ensued between Abbott and the more experienced 2014 winner, Olympian and former world champion open water swimmer Alex Meyer of the USA. Meyer and Abbott were neck and neck for much of the course with previous winner Christian Marsden of Trinidad and Tobago making a valiant attempt to keep pace with the leaders.

It was looking to be a very close finish until crowd favourite Meyer began his final sprint for home and pulled away from Abbott putting just over 16 seconds between them and providing a dramatic ending as he burst out of the water to cross the finish line on the beach.

However a protest was immediately lodged by Abbott and confirmed by course judges concerning Meyer’s passing on the wrong side of a buoy.   Meyer seemed uncertain of his error, but once it was pointed out he displayed fine sportsmanship and graciously acknowledged he had made a mistake.  In the heat of the moment while sprinting to the finish, he wrongly considered the buoy in question as a guide buoy and did indeed swim on the wrong side.  Abbott was awarded the race with Marsden (58:17.21) second, Jivan Chee Foon (1:02.32) of Trinidad and Tobago third and Barbadians Jason Wilson and Kent Mullins fourth and fifth respectively.

Three hundred and five swimmers converged on the Carlisle Bay in Barbados for the fourth annual Barbados Open Water Festival.  There was a mix of recreational swimmers, talented junior swimmers and highly competitive masters swimmers lined up with a few elite athletes in the 1.5K and 5K races.  A “Just For Fun” swim for a children’s charity attracted additional novice swimmers.

As with past competitions this year’s event drew swimmers seven to 86 years old from countries including the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Belgium and other Caribbean islands.

Co-director for the event Kristina Evelyn noted that the festival was growing each year and added that while the winners were the ones reported there were many who were accomplishing personal bests, swimming for causes or overcoming barriers such as swimming their first race in the sea.

The 2016 Barbados Open Water Festival is scheduled for November 5-6.

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