Youngsters swim gruelling 10K to honour recovering coach
A much-loved swimming coach who suffered a severe stroke has inspired his young charges to complete their first 10K challenge.
Barry Hanson, 67, who coaches youngsters in the Dolphin Swim Team, took ill in July and is due to return home to Bermuda this week after months of hospitalisation and rehabilitation in Boston.
On Sunday, seven of his young swimmers, aged between 13 and 15, swam around Harrington Sound in his honour as part of the Dolphins' Round the Sound event, each receiving a medal after finishing the race.
‘Team Barry' member Tate Crofts, 13, told The Royal Gazette: “Swimming for Mr Hanson — coach Barry — was a way to show him how much we miss him. He has been my swim coach at Dolphins since I was a little girl and I can imagine this swim is nothing compared to what he is going through with his recovery.
“I hope he would feel really proud of all of us for doing the 10km and he also would be really happy to see our ‘dolphin spirit'. His support for me in swimming has always been there and now it's his turn to have my support.”
She described the 10K, which took her almost three-and-a-half hours to complete, as “probably the hardest thing” she had ever done and said she kept “zoning in and out” during the final kilometre, only persevering due to encouragement from teammate Liam Peniston.
“I now realise that even though I thought I was almost physically prepared, I wasn't prepared at all mentally. I had actually convinced myself that I was either going to be sick or cry.
“I couldn't work out what was wrong with my body but now I'm pretty sure I just didn't feel like I could finish it because the buoys weren't getting any closer. And also I'm pretty sure my right leg stopped working by the end. A difficult part of the race was swimming past Mr Hanson's house and knowing he's not back in Bermuda yet.”
Liam, 15, said: “I can't speak for anyone else, but I know the line ‘I'm doing this for Barry' was certainly one that was spinning through my head as I swam. Whether this was [because of] the fact that I got a peek at my ‘Team Barry' marking on my arm every two strokes or that the course took us right by his house, where he and his wife would host many DST gatherings, Barry never left my mind.
“Coach Hanson has been my coach for at least five years now. Each day he wanted to extract the best out of all of us and pushed us each towards the different goals that we wanted to achieve. You knew that he cared about us all.
“I'll let you do the math, but he spent at least two hours, four days per week on that pool deck, for the majority of the weeks in the year, as a volunteer. That doesn't even count the hours he put into creating sets, or as a leader at the club, and for swimming in Bermuda. Therefore, the decision to dedicate our swim to him was not only unanimous, but just made sense.
“I think everyone who swam for ‘Team Barry' this weekend did it for the fact that they wanted to show him, in a way that he would appreciate, how grateful we really are for what he's done for us all, as young swimmers.
“By swimming the Round the Sound in its entirety, many of us have now accomplished one of our goals that we set out to achieve. I think that the effect that this will have on Barry once he finds out and gets back on the Island will hopefully bring a smile to his face, which is really what we want to see.”
The other members of Team Barry were: Cathal Rynne, 15; Gabriella Pucci, 14; Josh Irvine, 13; Sammy Dill, 15; and Megan Lau, 13.
Liam's mother Lorrie said: “Coach Hanson was the head coach of Dolphin Swim Team and leading up to this event, the swimmers, especially the senior swimmers, just knew how much this event meant to him and how he would have been encouraging and pushing them.
“Only one or two swimmers were ready to swim the 10K until they talked about doing it for Coach Hanson. He has come so far in his recovery by pushing himself that it made sense to challenge themselves to do the 10K.”
Mr Hanson's wife Liz said she knew her husband would be very proud of the seven youngsters.
A total of 322 swimmers, including 140 from overseas, took part in the 23rd annual Harrington Sound event, which raised funds for Bermuda Zoological Society.
* Useful websites: www.dolphins.bm and www.roundthesound.bm.