Youth Olympic qualifiers Kristin Julien, Jabari Baptiste and David Mc Leod will lead a 33-member T&T team into a battle with 20 other Caribbean nations when the 29th Carifta Swimming Championships splash off at the Piscina Olimpico Roly Bislik, Oranjestad, Savaneta, Aruba, from Tuesday to Saturday. The team wings out to the Dutch Caribbean Island tomorrow from midday.
But as much as the quality and star power of the trio of Julien, Baptiste and Mc Leod is indisputable, what is also incontrovertible is the star, points-earning and medal-winning power the team has lost from last year’s squad. For one reason or the other, team T&T have lost seven of the swimmers who brought in 23 of their 47 medals year.
Among them figure World Junior Swimming Championship silver medallist Dylan Carter (3 gold 1 silver), currently a freshman at the University of Southern California (USC) who has scholastic commitments; Joshua Romany (1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze), who aged out and is tipped to attend university in September, US-based Alexandria Donahue (1 gold, 2 silver) and Tyla Martin (4 gold, 1 silver), and the pair of UK-based Rebecca Marshall (1 bronze, 1 silver) and Canada-based Jonathan Ramkissoon (1 silver, 1 bronze), both who like Romany aged out of junior swimming. Canada-based Andre Goin (2 gold, 1 silver) is also not making the trip this year.
The T&T team’s drive to retain the crown they last held in Jamaica 2010 is also handicapped this year by a new entry criteria that does not allow swimmers already qualified in specific events to participate in other events they have not qualified in, a practice followed by other countries.
But despite those issues, the opportunities are there for younger swimmers to step in and fill some of the void left by the departure of the experienced and heralded swimmers like Carter and company at the meet sanctioned as an official qualifying meet for the 16th FINA World Championships 2015 scheduled for Kazan, Russia.
Carifta has already been approved as a qualifying meet for Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) in Veracruz, Mexico in October and the Youth Olympic Games in China from August 16-28.
Jada Chai of Atlantis, the standout swimmer at the long course event with no fewer than 12 Carifta qualifying times attained, is expected to join forces with Mc Leod, Baptiste and Julien to bolster the T&T team’s efforts.
On the Open Water side of the competition, the girls 15-17 trio of David sisters, Syriah and Shania, and Theana Hay are medal contenders.
Last year in Jamaica, Syriah won the 15-17 Open Water gold while Hay got silver. And Shania won silver in the 13-14 category while Christian Marsden secured bronze in the boys’ equivalent.
For the swim team, Marlins’ Mark Pouchet will serve as head coach while former ASATT president Hazel Haynes of Tidal Wave Aquatics has been appointed head coach of the Open Water team.
The duo of Brian Wickham (Centre of Excellence Sea Hawks) and Chabeth Haynes (Tidal Wave) are also part of the coaching staff which will be managed by Petrotrin Barracudas’ Shastri Sankar.
T&T Carifta Swimming team
13-14 Boys: Christian Marsden, Kael Yorke, James Gillette
15-17 Boys: Jivan Chee Foon, Andrew Gillette, Kyle Caracciolo
15-17 Girls: Syriah David, Theana Hay, Shania David
11-12 Girls: Jada Chai, Jahmia Harley, Vrisnelit Faure, Deshor Edwards, Sabrina David
11-12 Boys: Gabriel Bynoe, Aqeel Joseph, Josiah Duke, Luke Gillette, Jae-Hwa Lee Wing, Jean-Marc Granderson
13-14 Girls: Amira Pilgrim
13-14 Boys: Justin Samlalsingh, Kael Yorke, Christian Marsden, Osaze Riley, James Gillette, Jeron Thompson, Dario Omiss, Christopher Mohammed
15-17 Girls: Kristen Julien, Ariel Cape, Syriah David,
15-17 Boys: David Mc Leod, Jabari Baptiste, Jeron O’Brien, Jonathan Farah, Joshua Ramkissoon
Shastri Sankar (manager/head delegate), Hazel Haynes (head coach-open water), Mark Pouchet (head coach-swimming), Brian Wickham, Chabeth Haynes (coaches-swimming), Derek Changar (chaperone-open water), Ronald Joseph, Lyder George (chaperones-swimming)