KAFIA Rapley, head coach of Jamaica's team to the Goodwill Swim Meet, is confident that the young sensations will make a splash in Trinidad and Tobago and possibly top the medal standings at the end of the three-day event.
Rapley and the 25 swimmers are expected to depart Wednesday for the 26th edition of the championships which makes a return after the last two editions were cancelled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Action is scheduled to get underway in the 25-metre pool at the National Aquatic Centre in Couva on Friday.
While the contingent will represent the smallest that Jamaica has fielded over the years, Rapley believes the swimmers have been adequately prepared by their respective coaches.
"I do commend the coaches for the work that they have put in [with the swimmers]. From my experience with them over the past couple of weeks, I see the times that they have been doing in training and so I do expect them to surpass that at the meet," Rapley said.
"I do expect them to perform well individually. How we fair out as a country in terms of the placement, that may be affected — because the more numbers you have, the more chances you have of gathering points," she added.
With the Goodwill championships being one of the premier developmental swim meets in the region, viewed as a launching pad towards higher levels of competition, Rapley is aware that fierce competition will be on offing.
However, given the country's performances over the years, she remains upbeat about the prospects.
On their first outing in 2018, Jamaica's 32 swimmers, ranging from ages 8 to 17 years old, won 32 medals — 11 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze — and placed sixth overall in the eight-team standing.
A year later, in 2019, a 40-member team won 65 medals — 21 gold, 22 silver and 22 bronze — placing second overall out of nine on that occasion.
"We can top our first Goodwill games in terms of the medal count but definitely not the points standing because we will need the numbers. I do think our relay teams are going to be the biggest presence in terms of medal haul, but our strongest events are definitely the 50m events," Rapley noted.
Meanwhile, Giani Francis and Jaleel Samms both expressed delighted to have been given the responsibility to lead as captains.
Francis said she highly motivated to lead from the front, having seen the performances of other swimmers at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games.
"It has definitely motivated me to aim for higher meets and train even harder. Going outside of Jamaica to train has opened my eyes to how much we are probably sleeping in terms of training — and we really need to train harder," she said.
Samms is expecting great things from his teammates.
"I have no doubt that the Jamaica team that has been selected for the games will do extremely well. We have put in the work and all we have to do now is execute," said Samms.
Nestle Jamaica (through their Milo brand), Sterling Asset Management, Jamaica Olympic Association, GraceKennedy, Ministry of Sports, Gatorade and SportsMax have thrown their support behind the team for the championship.
— Dwayne Richards