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Swimmers make triumphant return from Carifta Championships

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Swimming with pride: Adriana Argent, left, Katherine Wheddon, Rory Shepherd and Bella Howes are beaming with their medals at LF Wade International Airport after returning from the Carifta Aquatics Championships in Bahamas. Star performer Connor Hupman, who helped himself to a seven-medal haul out of Bermuda’s grand total of 21, was among the medal-winners who remained overseas for school (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The joy of winning 24 medals for Bermuda at the Carifta Aquatics Championships was palpable when some of the island’s young swimmers returned home from Nassau, Bahamas, on Thursday.

What exacerbated the excitement was that this year’s medal haul is more than double the eight won by the 2023 contingent. The big highlight was Connor Hupman being on the podium in all his seven individual events.

Hupman was one of the swimmers that did not return to Bermuda with the rest of the team, as he headed back to class at Baylor School in Tennessee.

Rory Shepherd, winner of three bronze medals in the 11-12 age group in the Bahamas, was pleased with his achievement. The youngster, who was representing Bermuda for the first time, spoke of having to deal with the exhaustion from swimming at such a huge event.

“I'm excited because it’s my first time, I assume I can do better next time,” Shepherd told The Royal Gazette.

“It was really exciting to be part of the national team. I got to go away for a special swim meet, something I'd never done before.

“It was fun but also very tiring. By the end of Day 4, I was really tired and could barely move. We had swam many times already before that day.”

Shepherd, 13, also shared what he acquired from competing with swimmers from other countries.

“I learnt that the people are really fast and if you want to be in the top three, you have to work as hard as you can,’’ he said.

Triumphant return: Noah Maranzana, back row, left, Adriana Argent, Rhys Insley, Bella Howes. Front: Dominic Wright, Scarlett Spurling, Katherine Wheddon and Rory Shepherd (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Another first-time participant, Katherine Wheddon, 15, who won two silver medals in the girls 13-14 age group, stated that she went to the Bahamas not expecting to achieve a podium finish.

“It felt really good because I wasn't expecting to get any medal because of how hard the age groups are,’’ she said.

Rory Shepherd displays his three bronze medals (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“I'm really proud that I made it. The competition was really great and you always had girls that were a lot faster, which really pushed me to get the medals.”

Wheddon, whose inspiration in swimming is drawn from older members of the team, such as Brandon Adkins, has big dreams in the sport.

“I really want to get my Commonwealth Youth times and, hopefully, go to the Olympics,” Wheddon said.

Rory Shepherd in action (Photograph by Laetitia Hupman)

National swimming coach Ben Smith highlighted that while this was not Bermuda’s biggest achievement at the championships, the swimmers put in solid displays.

“For the size of the team, the performance was really strong,’’ Smith said. “Overall we came eighth as a country.

“This year we were able to come back with several medals. Specifically, Connor Hupman won multiple medals and won his age group.

“I believe he’s the third of fourth person from Bermuda to win an age group, which is always an exciting aspect for this kind of competition.”

Smith commended the swimmers for doing the island proud while battling against illness at what he described as a well-organised event.

“Unfortunately, several of the swimmers actually took sick while we were there,’’ he said.

“They were performing while not being at their best, but overall the standard was really amazing.

“The competition itself, Bahamas did an extraordinary job. This was probably the best-run Carifta ever, and I think the children were really excited to be able to participate in this level of a championship.”

Shona Palmer, Smith’s fellow national coach, spoke proudly of 14-year-old Hupman’s achievements.

Rory Shepherd in the pool (Photograph by Laetitia Hupman)

“Connor excelled at the championships and the other swimmers fed off his success,’’ she said.

“The whole team were really lifted from the first night. There were medals won and this set it up for the others to follow.”

On what the future holds for the youngsters, Palmer believes the experience should motivate them to qualify for subsequent events.

“For the first-time competitors, it’s a fantastic experience,’’ she said. “Carifta itself, the atmosphere, the energy that comes from the stands and into the pool, is just unique.

“For the youngsters to feel this, it really just fills them with a desire to come back for more.”

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Published April 06, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated April 06, 2024 at 8:27 am)

Swimmers make triumphant return from Carifta Championships

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