Swimmers are rising to Smith’s challenge
Ben Smith believes swimming in Bermuda is stronger than it has been for more than a decade.
The national team coach named a squad of 22 for this month's Caribbean Island Championships yesterday, and said the fact that he had been able to do so was “really impressive”.
One of the biggest squads that Bermuda has sent to an international event, Smith said it was only rivalled by the 28 swimmers that competed for Bermuda at the championships ten years ago.
However, Smith has raised the qualifying standards over the past couple of years, with team members now required to meet two triple-A times in order to be selected.
“We took 28 at a lower standard, and that was really because we were giving people experience,” Smith said.
“When you move the standard you are challenging people, and the fact that this many people reached the challenge is really encouraging.”
Smith believes the size of the squad is a vindication of his move to raise the bar, and said some people had been worried it had been moved too much.
“When you are thinking about raising standards there is always a risk that people aren't going to make it, and there are always people that are worried that you have pushed things too far,” he said.
“When you do it and you get this kind of result it is actually gratifying that the swimmers were able to jump up and reach that standard.
“For Bermuda it's a big team, but we're still one of the smaller teams at the event. But, for a country that has about 300 age-group swimmers, for us to be able to take 22 people is really impressive.”
The squad will include a mixture of senior swimmers, such as Julian Fletcher and Rebecca Heyliger, both of whom have already qualified for the Rio Olympics in August, Roy-Allan Burch, who has one last chance to qualify, and several newcomers.
Madelyn Moore is one of those competing at the championships for the first time, despite being one of the island's most promising young swimmers. Eligibility rules regarding residency have now changed allowing Moore to compete.
The senior members of the Bermuda team will find themselves competing against some of the best swimmers in the region, with the championships the final Olympic qualifiers for the Americas.
Smith welcomes the challenge that will bring, and still expects the more experienced members of the team, including Moore and Emma Harvey, who medalled at the Carifta Championships, to hit the high expectations he has of them.
“A lot of people are going to be swimming their fastest at the meet because it's an Olympic year,” Smith said. “But, the results we got from Carifta, we are expecting to have that group improve, and hope to get good results from them. And obviously, with our senior athletes, we are hoping we can get some great results out of them as well.”
The championships take place in the Bahamas from June 29 to July 2, and the Bermuda team will fly out on June 26. Smith will accompany the team alongside Richard Goodwin, and Janice Irby, the team manager.
Bermuda: Shannon Hassell, Madelyn Moore, Vanessa Esposito, Jesse Washington, Emma Harvey, Logan Watson-Brown, Payton Zelkin, Gabriella Pittman, Brett Smith, Jude Moseley, Ethan Daley, Evan Farrow, Sam Williamson, Jack Harvey, Brian Desmond, Ashley Irby, Lisa Blackburn, Julian Fletcher, Philip Hagen, Tyler Mazurek, Roy-Allan Burch, Rebecca Heyliger.
Squad profiles can be found by clicking on the PDF link under “Related Media”