Last year, 16 year-old Dylan Carter was struggling under local conditions to qualify for the London Olympics.
Nearly one year later, Carter was in Dubai collecting an historic silver medal at the FINA World Youth Swimming Championships in the Men’s 50 metres butterfly.
World youth silver was the culmination of a journey of a very talented athlete who had the matured physically and mentally to be competing among the world’s top youth swimmers.
Following a failed London Olympics qualifying effort under testing local conditions and after consulting with his parents, Carter packed up his school and swimming bags and took the plunge into a new environment in the USA.
By the time the Dubai event came around, Carter cut a fitter, faster and mentally stronger figure under a new programme led by Brazilian coach Alex Pussieldi.
Carter flourished in his new environment after only a few months under Pussieldi with stellar performances at the 2012 US Speedo Junior Winter Nationals in December, the top junior meet for that period of the year in the States, including an eye-opening championship record swim in the Men’s 200 yard freestyle.
Ace Trinidad and Tobago swimmer George Bovell, a student of the sport who understood the quality of Carter’s swims, had taken to Facebook and Twitter to advise of the former Fatima College student’s outstanding performances.
So when Carter donned the Trinidad and Tobago colours as co-captain of the 2013 national Carifta Swimming team, the local swimming fraternity expected great performances at the regional age-group competition in April.
Carter, who had committed to taking up a scholarship with the University of Southern California prior to the Games, delivered with six gold medals and championship record breaking swims, three of them individual swims, while the three others were for the 4 x 50 freestyle, 4 x 100 freestyle and 4 x 100 medley relays in the Boys 15-17 age-group.
Carter was effectively doing time-trials, especially in the Boys 15-17 200m freestyle, where he catspraddled the opposition with his sheer speed in posting 1:50.35, nearly nine seconds better than the silver medallist.
He sped to 50.67 in the 100m free and 55.00 for the 100m butterfly, both also championship record swims.
That Carifta meeting was a gauge for the upcoming Worlds in Dubai in August.
And after splashing to new national records in the 50m back, 100m back, 100m free and 200m free, Carter crowned off his meet with a final 50m butterfly swim that excited local swimming fans.
It was the highlight of the year for the six-foot, four-inch swimmer, but it wasn’t his final salvo.
Carter returned to the States and peaked again for the 2013 edition of the US Speedo Junior Winter Nationals at the Greensboro Aquatic Centre in Greensboro, North Carolina where he splashed to one gold, two silver and one bronze.
Those included a record-smashing effort in the men’s 200 yard freestyle event in a very fast 1:33.67 to break his own mark of 1:34.47 that he set in the preliminaries. He owned the record coming into the meet with a 1:35.29 timing from last year.
Carter, who swam unattached but who had been training with renowned USA swim coach Dave Salo since August, sped to a 19.65 second bronze medal effort for the Men’s 50 yard freestyle. He won silver in the men’s 100 yard backstroke behind Trista Sanders of Palm Beach YMCA (47.05 to 46.80); and silver in the 100-yard freestyle, covering four laps of the pool in a fast 43.07 seconds behind Caleb Dressel in 42.95, both under the Championship record time of 43.27 set by World Championships 50m silver medallist Vladimir Morozov in 2009.
Back home for the Christmas, Carter sped to a 3:50.05 for the 400m freestyle in an ASATT End of Year time trial, not only annihilating Joshua Romany’s Boys 15-17 2012 record of 3:58.41 time, but also the Sydney Olympian Sebastien Paddington’s Open 1996 standard of 3:55.89.
Carter fittingly walked away with the Spirit of Sport Awards (SOSA) Junior Male Athlete of the Year trophy during the 2013 SOSA Nomination Ceremony at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s on December 17. And up to press time last night, he was also nominated in five other categories—including Male Athlete of the Year, Breakthrough Performance of the Year, Record Breaking Performance of the Year, Emerging Athlete of the Year and Sport Performance of the Year.
Carter certainly improved his skill and game this year from the battling failure of not qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. But as good as 2013 was for the teenage swimmer, and given Carter’s technical skill, ability and drive, he is likely to stroke his way to even more regional and world accolades in the coming years.