By Christopher Tobutt
Get a few hundred children from three swimming clubs, separate them into age groups, put them to compete in personal time trials and against each other.
That could be the springboard for a future Cayman Olympic swimming champion.
On January 15th, 16th and 17th teams from Stingray Swim Club, Seven Mile Swimmers and Camana Bay Aquatics Club got together for the annual Pete Ribbins Memorial Swim Meet at the Lions Pool.
The young swimmers aged from six-year-olds all the way through to seventeen-year-olds were enthusiastic participants not just in the competitive team events but also swim against themselves; seeing how their personal times have improved from last year.
Samantha Fletcher, director of the Pete Ribbins Meet said: “The Pete Ribbins Memorial Meet is to remember Pete Ribbins and his particular dedication to youth in athletics and sports.
On Friday night we had the 10s-and-under which is a very quick and very busy and very loud and exciting session. Saturday is the 11-and-over swimmers and we have the longer swims, the 800 meters and 1500 meters at the end of today. On Friday and on Sunday we have team relays as well.”
The event director said, “This is one of the last meets where the swimmers will be able to record speeds that can rank them for CARIFTA.”
But the Pete Ribbins Memorial Meet has a bigger purpose, Ms Fletcher explained.
“The purpose really is for the swimmers themselves so that they can swim against themselves to see, with all the practice and training how much better they’ve got since the last meet so they can aim for personal bests, and then also to qualify for other meets.
“The primary purpose for them is to show that they are improving based on the training they have been doing,” she said.
“It’s a great community on the island for all the children to get involved in, and this year, we also have some of the older swimmers who have gone away to university who have come back because of the pandemic.”
One of the swimmers, Jorian Neblett, 15, said: “I have been doing the best I can. My specialities are the butterfly stroke and the freestyle. My main strokes are the 50 butterfly, 100 butterfly, the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle so I am more of a short-distance swimmer. I’ve been doing competitive swimming for six years for Stingray swim club.
Stephen Broadbelt Vice President of the Cayman Islands Aquatic Sports Association was pleased with the turnout and participation.
“It’s been really good,” he said. “A very good attendance from all of the three main clubs on Grand Cayman. It’s great to see the teamwork.”
Mr Broadbelt is encouraging more youngers to get involved and to learn to swim for both the skill and personal development it offers.
“People often think of swimming as an individual sport, but within each club it really is a team effort and I see a lot of young kids all encouraging each other, working together, racing each other. I would encourage any child to learn to swim and then join a swim club and start on a swim team. We need more of that.”
“There’s too many children that cannot swim in the Cayman Islands,” the Vice-President of the Cayman Islands Aquatic Sports Association lamented.