Alia-inspired swimmers dive into action at UANA Cup

Alia-inspired swimmers dive into action at UANA Cup

Friday, February 21, 2020

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After months of preparation, the physical and mental fortitude of Jamaica’s young female swimmers will be tested when they dive into action at the second UANA Swimming Cup in Lima, Peru, today.

Brooke Hopkins, 14, and Zaneta Alvaranga, 15, will lead the five-member all-female team into action in the 200- metre individual medley (IM) at the Videna Aquatic Complex.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Gabrianna Banks; Kokolo Foster, 13; and 12-year-old Christanya Shirley, are the other members of the Jamaican team who are among the 450 athletes from 25 countries gracing the South American nation.

The three-day event, which is the first international swim meet of the 2020 season, will no doubt be a highly competitive event, but the Jamaicans are eager to put their training to the test as they seek to deliver top performances all the way through to Sunday’s final day.

Jamaica’s champion swimmer Alia Atkinson, who is also a member of the UANA Swimming Technical Committee, will be on hand in Lima to offer inspiration to her young compatriots.

UANA Swimming Cup is a biennial premier swimming event hosted by the Swimming Union of the Americas. UANA’s existence dates back to the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

UANA Swimming Cup is contested across three age groups — 11-12, 13-14 and 15-17 — the same age categories as the Carifta and CCCAN Swimming Championships, and will be competed in longcourse metres.

The events will be timed finals. Jamaica’s participation at the inaugural staging concluded with the team registering six best times and 20 new personal records overall, two age-group records, and one senior national record.

The swimmers and Coach Gillian Millwood are settling in nicely in Lima at the Games Village, after completing a training session yesterday afternoon, which is integral to them acclimatising to their surroundings in Peru, while bracing for advanced competition.

Millwood and her swimmers are in high spirits, having recovered from their lengthy travels. “So far, things have been good and the girls are getting together.

The beauty of this team, whether or not it was small, all the swimmers have been national representatives in overseas competitions on the same team before, so in terms of familiarity with each other, we are already there.

“So this makes bonding and team camaraderie good. A little nerve at this high level competition is common early and we hope the young swimmers can overcome this aspect of mental preparedness,” Millwood told the Jamaica Observer from the team’s camp yesterday.

“So the concern now is to get all five of them acclimatised to this new venue and atmosphere and just getting them ready to swim their best and support each other.

Unfortunately, we don’t have relays which are the high point of these meets in terms of teamwork, but it now challenges the girls to push each other individually,” she added.

Banks is coming off an impressive outing last year and will be aiming to build on her FINA World Junior performance during which she clocked a blistering 50m freestyle personal best, becoming the fifth-fastest Jamaican female of all time on the shortcourse circuit.

She is a year-to-year national age group representative and many-time medallist at Carifta and CCCAN, who is once again looking to show her worth on the big stage.

“With this being my last year in the 15-17 age group, I am trying to see where my training is at compared to last year when this meet was in January. I am trying to see how much I’ve improved in my training, with the main aim being to lower my times,” Banks noted.

Shirley, who is in her final year of 11-12, is also aiming to be one of the standouts for Jamaica, as she has also been known to produce strong performances on the big stage.

“Before I came here I was a bit nervous that I just wanted to see the pool and see my competition, but now that I am here, I am more anxious to hit the water and improve my times. So, I am getting myself ready mentally to go out there and give of my best,” she shared.

— Sherdon Cowan

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