The swimming season was cut short this year but Bahamian swimmers who managed to get some meets under their belts performed admirably, said Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) President Algernon Cargill.
Female swimmers such as Joanna Evans, Laura Morley and Albury Higgs were looking forward to qualifying for this year’s Summer Olympics. However, the season was cut short due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the Olympics has been postponed back to July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan.
“The female swimmers continue to excel. Laura Morley already has her Olympic ‘B’ cut. Joanna Evans and Albury Higgs are the female swimmers who are out front in the program but The Bahamas is certainly well-positioned to have a great year in 2021. Hopefully we can restart the program very quickly,” Cargill said.
Morley made the Olympic “B” cut in the 200 meters (m) breaststroke with a national record time of 2:27.83 back in December 2019 when she competed at the US Open Swimming Championships at the Georgia Tech McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia. That time smashed her old national record of 2:30.21.
Multiple national record holder Evans has a “B” cut time of 4:11.06 in the 400m freestyle and was hoping to lower that time later in the season. Evans also has a top time of 2:01.55 in the 200m free, and the “B” cut qualifying time is 2:00.80. She holds the national record in both of those events, and with the Olympics being pushed back, she now has additional time to lower both of those times and outright qualify for the games.
The “A” cut time in the 400m free is 4:07.90 and in the “B” cut time is 4:15.34.
Higgs had an impressive season for her University of South Carolina Gamecocks. She was able to qualify in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) Swimming Championships in March. However, that event was canceled due to the pandemic.
She is close to the “B” cut qualifying time in the 200m breast with a time of 2:30.50. The “B” cut time is 2:29.89.
On the male side, Cargill mentioned swimmers such as Jared Fitzgerald, Izaak Bastian and Vereance Burrows as some of the Bahamian male swimmers who are looking to qualify for next year’s Olympics.
“Unless someone achieves a qualifying time, we have three male swimmers who are vying for one spot on the Olympic team. We have Jared Fitzgerald who had an outstanding year at the University of Tampa (UT). He is ahead in FINA points as we speak. Izaak Bastian also had an outstanding year at Florida State University (FSU). DaVante Carey, Vereance Burrows and Kohen Kerr are all outstanding swimmers who want to represent The Bahamas at the Olympic Games and had terrific seasons. We expect it to be an intense battle,” said Cargill.
Fitzgerald, the 100m free national record holder, has 786 FINA (International Swimming Federation) points – the highest among the Bahamian male swimmers. He swam 50.81 seconds at the 2019 Pan American Games last year in Lima, Peru. Fitzgerald had a great season in the pool for UT, qualifying individually for the NCAA Division II (DII) Swimming Championships in the 100-yard freestyle event.
Breathing down Fitzgerald’s back by five points is Bastian with 781 points. The 200m breast national record holder has those points for his efforts in the 100m breast. His top time in that event during the qualifying period is 1:01.99 and the “B” cut time is 1:01.73. The FSU swimmer was impressive this season, qualifying for the first time in an individual event for the NCAA DI Swimming Championships. He qualified in the 100-yard breast.
Carey holds the national records in the 50 and 100m backstroke events. The freshman at McKendree University qualified for the NCAA DII Swimming Championships for his performance in the 100-yard backstroke.
If no Bahamian male swimmer qualifies, Fitzgerald is the swimmer who will be called upon to represent The Bahamas at the Olympics because he has the highest FINA points and will get in because of the universality standard of the Olympics which allows a country to enter one male and one female swimmer regardless of time.
For those elite swimmers like Fitzgerald and Carey who were in The Bahamas in recent weeks, they had a chance to get back into the pool in early May after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that elite and professional athletes would be allowed to resume training, as highlighted in the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Orders.
“I am happy that the government allowed for the training of elite and professional athletes,” Cargill said. “We contacted the National Sports Authority (NSA) to see if they can give permission to those in school because some of these athletes have commitments to their colleges and they have a very stringent program that they had to adhere to.”
Cargill, who sits on the FINA board as a regional representative, has a key input on approving some of the COVID-19 protocols in swimming. He said he adopted those same protocols for the federation.
“One thing that I am happy about is that with Bahamas Aquatics, we have developed protocols based on FINA best practices… We provided each recommendation for the NSA that they have adopted outright. We have been a pacesetter for all federations in that regard. From what we understand, some of our protocols were adopted as a part of the standard operating practices. It can be used by the other federations in terms of required social distancing in their programs,” Cargill stated.
A number of Bahamian swimmers will be looking to lower their times in preparation for next year’s Summer Olympics. Unfortunately, FINA has canceled a number of regional and international qualifying meets due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.