SWIMMING MAKING PROGRESS
Swimming as a sport in Jamaica does not enjoy the popularity that football and cricket do, however, over the years swimming has grown especially since the introduction of SwimJamaica.
SwimJamaica is an initiative of the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ), the ASAJ is the governing body for swimming in Jamaica. SwimJamaica was launched in January 2005 to significantly improve and change the long-term prospects of Jamaica’s competitive programme.
The programme was the brainchild of then president of the ASAJ John Eyre, who resigned from the position on June 9, 2011 to take up a job offer in the United States. Martin Lyn is now the new president of the ASAJ.
The vision of SwimJamaica is to develop the aquatic sports from the base by providing opportunities for every Jamaican to learn to swim.
SwimJamaica was launched with 50 swimmers with English couple Catherine and Peter Moore appointed as instructors after they had volunteered to help. By September 2008 the SwimJamaica youth programme had grown to 1600 students, with over 110 adults registered for the adult programme. The programme has also produced over 30 trained instructors.
The sport is yet to produce an Olympic champion for the country although Jamaica has performed well at the regional level. However, the sport has produced Janelle Atkinson, one of the best in Jamaica’s swimming history. Janelle Atkinson put Jamaica in the spotlight at the major international event – the Olympic Games – when she reached the final of the women’s 400-metre freestyle event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She just missed a place on the podium by finishing fourth in national record 4:08.79.
Janelle Atkinson also competed in the women’s 800-metre at that Olympics. She clocked 8:34.51 for ninth overall. She also represented Jamaica at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Atkinson also proved herself at the Pan Am Games level, winning three silver medals for Jamaica at the 1999 edition.
Other Jamaican swimmers who competed at the Olympics were: Alan Roy Marsh, Andrew Phillips, Derek Marks, Gordon Scarlett in 1984 in Los Angeles, USA; Sion Brinn in 1996 in Atlanta, USA; Jevon Atkinson, Alia Atkinson and Natasha Moodie in 2008 in Beijing, China.
Andrew Phillips qualified for the final of the men’s 200-metre individual medley and finished sixth in 2:05.60. He also competed in the men’s 400 metre individual medley and placed 10th overall (which is second in the B-final) in 4:27.98.
Derek Marks and Gordon Scarlett competed in the men’s 100-metre freestyle and had overall placings of 45th and 52nd respectively.
Allan Roy Marsh took part in the 100 and 200-metre backstrokes. He finished 27th overall in the 100-metre backstroke in 1:00.04 and also the same position in the 200-metre backstroke in 2:11.57.
The quartet of Alan Roy Marsh, Andrew Phillips, Derek Marks and Gordon Scarlett finished 17th overall in the men’s 4×100 medley relay with a time of 4:05.35.
Sion Brinn represented Jamaica in the men’s 50 and 100-metre freestyle events at the 1996 Olympics. He was a non-qualifier in the 50-metre freestyle finishing 29th overall in 23.35. However, Brinn made the B-final of the 100-metre freestyle and finished fourth in 50.09 which is 12th overall.
Brinn switched allegiance and has represented since Great Britain 1998. He represented for Great Britain at the 2000 Olympics.
Jevon Atkinson and Natasha Moodie, 50-metre freestyle; and Alia Atkinson, 200-metre breaststroke, did not make it out of the first round in their events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Alia Atkinson managed to finish second in her heat of the women’s 200-metre breaststroke in Beijing. She clocked of 2:29.53, but that time could not qualify her to the semi-final round.
Alia Atkinson made history for Jamaica in 2010 by becoming the first Jamaican woman to compete in a final at a FINA World Swimming Championships. She made the final of the women’s 50-metre breaststroke in Dubai and finished sixth in 30.25.
Jamaican swimmers have done reasonably well in regional competitions such as the Carifta Swimming Championships.
Kendese Nangle and Timothy Wynter were the country’s top performers at the 2011 Carifta Championships in Barbados from April 23-26.
Nangle finished with eight medals (five gold, one silver and two bronze) and was named the top overall female swimmer, while Wynter copped 10 medals (four gold, five silver and one bronze).
Jamaica’s 35-member team of swimmers captured 34 medals at that championships for fourth place in the overall points standings, having amassed 561 points. The standings were topped by Guadeloupe (736.5), Trinidad and Tobago (679) and The Bahamas (610).
Brad Hamilton also achieved good results for Jamaica in 2011. He was the country’s sole representative at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shenghai, China. Hamilton broke his national senior record in the 100-metre butterfly with a 56.48 clocking. The old mark was 56.56.
Among the list of swimmers who have also done well at the regional level for Jamaica are Brad Hamilton, Dominic Lee, Angela Chuck, Tamara Swaby, Travis Forte, Jonathan Forde, Dominic Walters and Amelia Thompson.