THE Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) got a boost to their thrust to host the 28th Carifta Swimming and Water Polo Championships with a surprise cash injection.
At a press launch at the National Stadium Pool complex yesterday, information technology solution company Digipoint presented a cheque for US$20,000 (J$1.9 million) to ASAJ President Martin Lyn, a sum seen as a significant start in achieving the targeted J$15 million it will take to host the regional aquatics tournament.
The championship, for athletes aged 11 to 17 years and which will run from March 30-April 3 at the National Stadium Pool, is expected to attract 22 nations of the Caribbean, 16 of whom have already confirmed their participation.
Minister with responsibility for Sport Natalie Neita-Headley made a clarion call on corporate Jamaica to jump into the sponsorship pool as the competition has the potential to help hone the skills of local aquatic sporting talent and economic benefits to the country.
"It's time for sponsors to step up to allow young swimmers to develop...the hosting of the tournament also has a value-added side with huge numbers of athletes, coaches, parents and supporters expected to attend.
"These people will need hotel rooms, jerk chicken and will want to go out for entertainment, therefore the benefits to Jamaica will be great," she said.
Some 800 athletes in all will be in action for a double-bill period of swimming where the Open Water Championship will also be staged in Discovery Bay, St Ann.
More than 500 of those athletes will be coming in from other territories in the region.
Neita-Headley, in her brief but passionate presentation, said she's prepared to dive into the deep end to predict that swimming "is the next big sport in Jamaica".
"More needs to be done to improve on the success we have had... I think we can find the next Usain Bolt of swimming right here in Jamaica," she said.
Meanwhile, Lyn said the organisers of the championship and the athletes are "pumped up and riding" as they look to host another successful event, Jamaica's fifth overall.
He said swimming was no longer considered "a minor sport", but was "moving up to the major ranks" as corporate Jamaica "is slowly but surely buying into it" across the board, therefore he's optimistic the monetary targets for the 2013 Carifta Championships will be met.
Meanwhile, an extensive "renovation" of the pool done at a cost of $6 million has been completed and water is already being pumped into the country's prime facility.
"The facilities have gone under extensive renovation, including the "massive" upgrade of the pumps and filters, which it is said will serve for the "next two decades".
"Carifta is only for five days, but swimming will continue long after Carifta finishes. This work... will ensure that our swimmers have proper facilities which will last for another two decades," Lyn noted.
Neita-Headley was taken on a tour of the pool facilities following the morning press launch.
The countries expected to participate in the five-day aquatics festival are host Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, US Virgin Islands.
Jamaican star swimmer Olympian Alia Atkinson will be the patron of the event.