Alvaranga headlines Jamaica's swimmers to Pan Am JuniorsSaturday, September 11, 2021
BY SHERDON COWAN
A small but talented team, headlined by rising sensation Zaneta Alvaranga, has been listed to carry the country's medal hopes in the pool when the inaugural Junior Pan Am Games gets under way in Cali, Colombia.
Alvaranga, who last represented Jamaica at the Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) Swimming Cup in February last year, is among five swimmers — three females and two males — invited to participate at the meet scheduled for November 25 to December 5.
An athlete competing in the Junior Pan Am Games must be 23 years or under, and have met a qualifying time.
As such, the Kaizen Swim Club stalwart, with 725 FINA (international swimming federation) points, along with Sabrina Lyn (712 Points) of Tornados Swim Club and United Kingdom-based swimmer Alisha Stephenson (643 points), are the female invitees.
The FINA Points Table allows comparisons of results among different events. The FINA Point Scoring assigns point values to swimming performances, with more points being allocated for world-class performances, typically 1000 or more, and fewer points for slower performances.
Meanwhile, the outstanding Nathaniel Thomas of Tornados Swim Club and Kyle Sinclair of Y-Speedos are listed as the male representatives, as Jamaica received two universality spot.
As it is with the Olympics universality, it allows competitors from a country to participate at the Games, provided no other swimmer from the same gender qualifies for the Games or receives an invite based on his or her selection time (B standard time).
That said, the likes of Gabrianna Banks, Kito Campbell, Kaheem Lozer and a few others who had B standard times, were unfortunately not invited by the organisers.
Still, Georgia Sinclair, Aquatic Sports Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) vice-president with responsibility for swimming, is upbeat about the exposure and experience to be gained to aid in the development of those invited.
“The ASAJ is particularly pleased about the transition of our young swimmers to this high level of competition. I am even more pleased that the majority of swimmers selected to this team are home-grown athletes and this is testament to the quality of our coaches and to the commitment of the ASAJ to athlete development,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
“The inaugural Junior Pan Am Games is yet another opportunity for these swimmers to further improve their times by competing against some of the best junior athletes, and we are confident that our team will perform well,” added Sinclair, who is also expected to travel as team manager.
Gillian Millwood has again been appointed head coach for this assignment.
“I'm incredibly proud of all those who achieved the standard or even those who came within tenths of seconds of the cuts. The five-member team is looking really good and I was hoping that the proposed eight would've been granted the opportunity, but it goes to show that the competition is tough.
“We have members at different stages of life (university and lower sixth form), I am intrigued to watch them balance these new opportunities and excel in these unprecedented times,” Millwood said.
Alvaranga, 16, who broke the national age-group and meet record in the 50-metre butterfly in her first year in 15-17 category at the UANA Cup, is excited about her return to national duties.
She was ruled out of the Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) team to Puerto Rico in June due to a clash with Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.
“I am very excited and proud that I got invited to the Junior Pan Am Games, this will be my first time at the event and I am looking forward to it as it is another level of the competition. It will be a top level competition and I am really looking forward to it,” Alvaranga told the Observer.
“I am expecting to get some good times, hopefully some really good placements as well, and just to see how I match up against other competitors in the pandemic.
“My preparation is going well; I am feeling very confident and good in training and looking forward to competition and representing the black, green, and gold once again. The aim is to make my family, myself, and the country proud,” she added.
With the young swimmer having three B standard times, which could see her select another event at the games, her coach and father, Rory Alvaranga, is expecting her training and unwavering love for the sport to once again come to the fore when the time comes.
“She always says that she will challenge herself in training so that she can turn out some strong performances, so we will be sticking to the rudiments of what have brought her success throughout the years.
“Ultimately, on the day, it will be Zaneta's ability and love of the sport that will prevail,” the senior Alvaranga shared.