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Adora Lawrence, Storm Halbich, and Nikolas Sylvester at the 2014 World Championships in Qatar.
Adora Lawrence, Storm Halbich, and Nikolas Sylvester at the 2014 World Championships in Qatar.

Following St. Vincent’s most successfully completed Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Swimming Championships in St. Lucia in November, Vincentian swimmers participated in three more competitions, ending 2014 with a flurry of medals, records and recognition that swimmers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines have become a dominant force throughout the region leading into 2015.

Ten-year-old Alex Joachim, accompanied by his younger sister Jamie Joachim, 7, and representing their swimming club Black Sands Swim Squad, competed in the Barbados National Championship at the end of November.

Alex was up against the best from Barbados, managing to clinch top spot in the 50 meters butterfly, winning gold in a personal best time of 33.69 seconds, setting a new St. Vincent national record.

He finished the three-day event with 6 medals: 1 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.

Jamie came away with personal bests in all four of her races.

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The FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships were next on the agenda for four of SVG’s best swimmers.

Adora Lawrence, Storm Halbich, Nikolas Sylvester and Dillon Gooding travelled to Qatar at the beginning of December, rising to the challenge of competing against the best swimmers in the world. Lawrence, Halbich, and Sylvester all swam personal best times at the event.

Their National Coach Kyle Dougan, who accompanied them to the event, said, “At this stage in their swimming career, competing at the World Championships is all about exposure and gaining experience. We were looking for best performances from our swimmers at this event, rather than winning gold medals and that’s exactly what we got”.

Attending the event was made possible by funding from FINA, the governing body of swimming.

This enabled the Vincentian swimmers to witness swimming at its very best. The team witnessed Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson win gold in the 100 meters breaststroke, becoming the World Champion and swimming a world record time, making her the first Jamaican ever, and the first black women to win the world title in over 40 years.

Dillon Gooding attended the event by invitation from FINA. He participated in a special youth training programme. This consisted of more than 230 athletes from some 130 countries and led by world-renowned coach, Todd Schmitz from the United States.

This programme included educational topics, pool training and attendance to all the world championships finals.

Garcia Cato represented St. Vincent well as the official association delegate at the event and Sarah Smith travelled to assist with the youth programme.

To finish the year’s competition, six Vincentian swimmers, representing Black Sands Swim Squad, took part in Trinidad’s annual invitational meet from Dec. 12 to 15.

Alex and Shne Joachim, Nikolas and Justin Sylvester, Cruz Halbich, and Shane Cadogan swam against 377 swimmers from 27 different clubs coming from 9 countries: Jamaica, Guyana, the United States, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and SVG.

The competition is one of the region’s best invitational meets.

Alex Joachim that was the first to shine.

Swimming in the boys 9 to 10 years old category, Alex swam his very best in every event, bringing home to St. Vincent 4 gold and 2 silver medals and winning the trophy for being the boys 9-10 overall champion.

Alex went on to exceed himself by taking part in five other events that were in the older boys age group, swimming personal best times and gaining valuable experience for his future swimming development. Next to shine was Shane Cadogan, who won 4 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals, and he was awarded a trophy for coming second overall in the boys 11-12 years age group. Shane also smashed the existing Trinidadian record in the boys 50 meters breaststroke in a time of 32.81 seconds, raising the SVG national record to a very high standard.

SVG’s CARIFTA record holder Shne Joachim travelled back from school in Canada to attend the event.

Shne competed in four events and achieved two gold and two bronze medals. She also smashed the Trinidadian record in the 50 meters breaststroke in a time of 35.24 seconds.

Fighting jetlag after travelling from Qatar two days earlier to the event and swimming against extremely tough competition, Nikolas Sylvester made a valiant attempt to deliver some very good performances and was able to bring back a bronze medal in one of swimming toughest events, the 400 meter individual medley, and Cruz Halbich also took up the challenge of competing in the long distance event, the 800 meters freestyle. This was a first for Halbich and he proudly walked away with a silver medal and a personal best time. Justin Sylvester was swimming with a fractured toe, he battled through and swam his best.

Black Sands coach and the SVG National Coach Kyle Dougan commented, “These results were a great way to end a year of extremely hard work from everyone involved in the sport of swimming in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. All of our swimmers are showing great potential. The swimming association is going from strength to strength and our ability to coach our young Vincentians here in St. Vincent is proving to be more than able.”

Dougan also recognised the work of assistant swim coaches Roy Bradshaw and Xaveon Caesar, along with strength training coach Fiana McMillan for their contributions in helping prepare our swimmers.

“2015 will continue to be a balance of hard work at both school and in the pool. With the continued support from the parents of the swimmers, St. Vincent can look forwards to reading about some more great results this year,” Dougan said.