Burch the headline act at national meet
Roy-Allan Burch and Julian Fletcher, Bermuda's Commonwealth Games-bound swimmers, will return to the Island from their overseas training bases to participate in the long-course Validus Bermuda National Championships starting tomorrow at the National Sports Centre.
The pair are based overseas but will be back on the Island to help raise the level of competition at the four-day meet in which Rebecca Heyliger, Lisa Blackburn and Ashley Yearwood will attempt to qualify for Glasgow 2014 before the Games squad is finalised.
Burch, an Olympian, is looking forward to being back home for the national championships. “It's always a motivation to come back to the Island to show how my training is going,” Burch said. “This season I have been putting in some extremely hard work and I am anticipating it paying big dividends in Glasgow. It's also great to have two relay events [4 x 100 freestyle and 4 x 100 medley] as part of the schedule, and to allow Julian and me to partner with some of the younger, locally based swimmers.
“Even though I am living and training off the Island most of the year, I stay in close contact with Ben Smith about the performances of our up-and-coming talent. I'm really impressed by the results some of the locally based swimmers and see a very bright future for Bermuda's swimming programme.”
Smith, the Bermuda national coach, is excited about the level of competition for the weekend meet and expects some outstanding performances. “Our swimmers are dialled in and ready to deliver strong performances,” Smith said.
“We're also delighted to be running a long-course meet so that we can give our Commonwealth-bound swimmers another opportunity to get race experience in advance of Glasgow.”
Smith hopes that the presence of an overseas field will help to raise the levels of the local swimmers, with athletes expected from the US Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and, possibly, India.
“We don't want to lose sight of the task at hand this week, but we hope that this meet helps to establish our credibility at running a top-class meet and attempting to bring in an even deeper pool of overseas talent in the years to come,” Smith said. “Our swimmers are doing a fantastic job, but more head-to-head challenges are always advantageous to their development.”
Nick Strong, the president of the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association, says the 50-metre pool is ideal for the level of competition that is expected. “Significant efforts from our numerous parent volunteers, in conjunction with Ben Smith, enabled us to have the meet recognised by Fina, the world governing body of aquatics, as approved for swimmers achieving qualifying times for Youth Olympic Games 2014 and World Championships 2015.
“In spite of receiving the Fina recognition at a late date, we are welcoming double digit numbers of overseas swimmers who can use this meet for qualification purposes. This is an exciting development that will boost the competition for our swimmers and demonstrates that Bermuda can deliver a meaningful international meet.
“We anticipate a successful meet and look forward to enticing more overseas swimmers in the future, further enhancing the island's credibility and enabling our swimmers more exposure to a higher level of competition. We welcome spectators to what will be an impressive meet, both to enjoy the competition and to support all of the dedicated swimmers.”
5.45 Opening ceremony
6.00 Timed finals
6.00 Heats and one timed final