ASAJ boss Lyn hails Commonwealth Games swimmers
Jamaica's Keanon Dols competes in the men's backstroke at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games recently. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Despite the absence of a medal-winning performance, Aquatic Sports Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) President Martin Lyn sang praises for the country's representation across the pool at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Though Jamaica fielded a larger swim team when it hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1966, the seven swimmers and diver Yona Knight-Wisdom, who made a splash in England, is said to be the most at a major event in recent times, and that for Lyn is a positive indication of where the country's aquatics is headed.

In fact, of the seven swimmers, four — Mackenzie Headley, 16; Zaneta Alvaranga, 17; Nathaniel Thomas, 18; and Kito Campbell, 19 — are still fairly new to the big stage and that for Lyn adds impetus to the prospects.

Kelsie Campbell, 24; Keanon Dols, 24; and Sidrell Williams, 26, were the other swimmers.

"It's always a positive indication when any federation can send several athletes to represent Jamaica at this high level. So we at the ASAJ are very proud that the Jamaica Olympic Association allowed us the opportunity to send so many athletes in swimming and of course one in diving.

"And I'm sure we will continue to grow in terms of representation because we had a good blend of athletes at this Commonwealth Games," Lyn told the Jamaica Observer.

"As you saw we had more youth than we had seniors which makes planning for future games a little easier because these young athletes would now have the experience of seeing what it is like to compete at this level and giving their [the athletes] potential, we have no doubt that its all upwards and onwards from here," he added.

While the United States-based Headley was the only swimmer to contest a semi-final, diver Knight-Wisdom contested both one-metre and three-metre springboard finals, scoring 383.10 and 445.50 for fifth and sixth respectively.

Headley clocked a national 15-17 50-metre freestyle record to 25.62s, erasing the previous mark of 25.95 set by Natasha Moodie at the 2008 Olympics, in securing a sixth-place finish in the heats to get a taste of semi-final action, where she placed eighth in 25.97s.

The now-retired decorated Alia Atkinson is the only Jamaican woman faster than Headley in the 50m freestyle with the senior national record at 25.47s.

Headley also equalled her 15-17 100m freestyle record of 57.37s when placing seventh in the heats. She is now the fastest Jamaican woman of all time at Commonwealth Games beating the 58.44s that Dawn Kane, then Chuck, swam in Manchester in 2002.

She is the third-fastest Carifta woman of all time at the Commonwealth Games behind the Bahamian duo Arianna Vanderpool-Wallance and Ariel Weech and Bermudan Madelyn Moore.

Meanwhile, the others, particularly Alvaranga, Thomas and Campbell, also had credible performances in which they achieved personal best times and just missed out on semi-final action.

Alvaranga placed third in her 100m butterfly heat at 1:03.2, while Thomas won his 50m freestyle heat in 23.89s, just shy of the 15-17 record of 23.40s held by Justin Plaschka since 2015.

These performances Lyn said demonstrate a step in the right direction since Atkinson's retirement and soon the island will have numerous athletes taking over the medal-winning mantle from the five-time Olympian.

"I am always proud of our athletes because there is no doubt that they always put their best foot forward. We went close to and possibly achieved a lot of personal best times. Again, they are young so there is always the possibility that they saw major powerhouses beside them and felt a little intimidated," Lyn opined.

"So that's why it's a major positive to bring them here where we know the competition is at a high standard so that the next Commonwealth Games we can get much better performances. But these are all key positives as we look ahead and again gave a very good indication of where the country's swimming is headed," the president noted.

Still, Lyn while assessing the positives and negatives pointed out that more finances will be needed to improve the countries aquatics and, by extension, execute their future strategy.

"As I said earlier there is growth potential and we are always trying to capitalise on our athletes performances where possible improvements are concerned. But the bottom line is that we still have a long way to go," Lyn said.

"Because when you look at the other countries and the resources that they have, we are nowhere near that in Jamaica and its a pity to come to Games like this and see the wealth that others put into sports that we don't.

"We are always sort of buck shuffling as it is to finance. But we are still grateful that it [a lack of financial backing] doesn't stop us from representing and achieving the results and the standards that are necessary to compete at this very high level," the president ended.

ASAJ President Martin Lyn (left) shares a photo opportunity with (from 2nd left) Audrey Brown, Grace Wisdom, and swimmer Zaneta Alvaranga as they support diver Yona Knight-Wisdom at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Sherdon Cowan

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