It was a family affair in Curaçao

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Saleste received tremendous support from her parents and siblings

The Nassau GuardianSend an emailApril 14, 2023 808 3 minute readFacebookTwitterLinkedInShare via Email

 Saleste Gibson’s brother Samuel Gibson, left, and her sister Salene Gibson, right, were in Willemstad, Curaçao, for the 36th CARIFTA Swimming Championships, supporting their younger sister. Saleste’s parents Aynda and Dion Gibson were also there.

The 36th CARIFTA Swimming Championships is in the books and The Bahamas cruised to a fifth consecutive title. Saleste Gibson contributed 75 points to The Bahamas’ record total of 1,113 points. She was under the watchful eyes of her family in the spectator bleachers, cheering her on as she won seven gold medals at the Sentro Deportivo Kòrsou – Pisina Enith Brigitha in Willemstad, Curaçao, from April 6-9.

Individually, the 11-12 swimmer was dominant in her swims, coming away with seven individual gold medals in nine races, then winning four gold medals in the relays. She swam the 50 meters (m) backstroke, 100m butterfly, 50, 100 and 200m freestyle, 50m fly, 200m individual medley (IM), 200m fly and 400m free events. She finished fourth in the 50m back and swam away with the silver in the 200m fly. In the other individual events, she won gold. She won the high-point award for her age category and also won the FINA (International Swimming Federation) high-point award – given out to the age group swimmer who comes closest to global standards.

Saleste had her father Dion Gibson, mother Aynda Gibson, brother Samuel Gibson and sister Salene Gibson in the stands supporting her. The Gibsons got their CARIFTA journey underway in 2013 when Saleste’s brother Samuel was the first in the family to be named to the CARIFTA team. That year, CARIFTA swimming was held in Kingston, Jamaica. Mother Aynda said she was impressed with Saleste’s performance.

“It was truly awesome seeing Saleste swim the way she did,” she said. “She had nine individual events – prelims and finals, as well as four relays. Almost all of her events were back to back, and the physical and emotional stamina she displayed was mind-blowing. I could not stop giving God thanks.”

For Saleste, it was the second time being named to the CARIFTA team. Her mother and father were in Barbados for the 2022 edition of the meet but not her brother and sister.

“The support that I got from my family was amazing,” Saleste said. “It made me work a lot harder, and my brother and sister were watching me swim at CARIFTA, so it was a new experience for them. They traveled to other countries for CARIFTA but never went to Curaçao.”

Father Dion was in the stands with his phone recording her races and watched keenly at her 

swimming individual prelims and finals. According to him, it was the same lineup that her older brother had in 2014.

“I was so proud of Saleste’s performance this CARIFTA,” he said. “I have seen the exact event lineup she had before. Her brother Sam swam the same lineup in Aruba CARIFTA 2014 – the year we won. He had excellent swims also, but I personally witnessed how taxing it was on him. Saleste handled herself exceptionally well, and displayed serious mental and physical fortitude.”

Dion said he was happy to see the older siblings fly into Curaçao to watch their younger sibling swim.

Samuel Gibson last competed in CARIFTA in 2019, then he aged out. He graduates from Pace University in New York next month with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting with honors. He said that it has been great to see his sister perform at this level. 

“As her older brother, it was great to see her develop over the years and see her grow into the swimmer who she is now,” Samuel said. “I am happy to see her being successful and I know about the hard work she put in which makes it more rewarding for my family to see.”

Salene Gibson was also on the same team as her brother that won in 2019 in Barbados. She enjoyed watching her younger sister perform at a high level.

“As her sister, I am so proud of her, and seeing her progression makes it even more special,” Salene said. “We hope to see her do well in more CARIFTA meets to come.”

For the youngest of the Gibsons, she feels no pressure to follow up on the performances of her brother and sister.

“It’s a little bit hard to follow in their footsteps, since they were such great swimmers,” Saleste said. “I think that with the support that I get from my family members, it takes away from the pressure that I feel.”

The pool is like a second home for Saleste, having been around it since she was born and watching her older siblings swim.

Mother Aynda stated, “She watched her siblings compete in seven consecutive CARIFTA Games – the influence Sam and Salene have on her is immeasurable. They are both very involved in offering support and advice to their younger sister.”

Father Dion Gibson said that overall it was a great experience for the family and that while Saleste is often the smallest one on the starting blocks, she does not let that stop her from touching the wall first.

Now that CARIFTA is over, Saleste has her eyes set on competing at the Bahamas Aquatics Federation’s National Championships set for June 22-25.

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