'Swim For the Sanctuary' event exceeds expectations
From left: Sharon Williams, cruise liaison officer, Jamaica Tourist Board; Kyle Mais, director, Jamaica Inn Foundation; Alexandra Ghisays, Couples Resorts' Group, PR manager; Rojah Thomas, director, retail sales, Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ); Debra Lopez-Spence, president, Scotia Jamaica Life Insurance; Elon Parkinson, Digicel's head of communications and corporate affairs; Sherita Riley, CPJ; Chris-Anthony Saulter, CPJ's marketing manager; Dr Carey Wallace, executive director, Tourism Enhancement Fund. Kneeling are Belinda Collier-Morrow and "Cookie", co-chairs, White River Fish Sanctuary. (CH Photography)

Olympian Allan Roy Marsh was among the highlights of an exciting day at the Jamaica Inn Foundation's Swim For the Sanctuary Open Water Championships at the Shaw Park Beach in Ocho Rios, St Ann, on Saturday.

The third annual event had a record number of registered participants, exceeding 150 athletes across the various events, with the proceeds going towards the White River Fish Sanctuary to support its efforts in protecting and restoring the Jamaican marine environment.

Marsh, 61, who competed at the 1984 Olympics, was the surprise winner of the marquee 5K event in 1:24:22 minutes. Thomas Issa was actually in pole position to win the event but accidentally did an extra lap, which saw him finish second in 1:32:09.

Given his age, Marsh was proud of his efforts.

Swimmers diving into the sea at Shaw Park Beach in their distance event at the Jamaica Inn Foundation's Swim For the Sanctuary Open Water Championships in St Ann on Saturday. (CH Photography)

"It was a challenging swim," he said. "I haven't done a 5K swim in a long time, and at 61 it becomes a little more difficult. But it was a nice swim, once you finish the kilometre, you get into a rhythm. It was a reasonable swim, I'm not complaining."

Adrienne Chin-Ogilvie, 63, who in 2022 became the first Jamaican woman to qualify for the Aquathlon World Championship, took the women's equivalent in 2:17:13.

"I over swam," she said, "I went one lap more, which shows I did proper training. I didn't die halfway so I'm pleased with the training part, and I hope I was able to inspire the younger ones to do it next time or to set a goal to do it."

The men's and women's premier 3K events were won by Charles McIntosh and Isabella Wong, respectively, while Nathan Wright and Kai Lawson won the 1K for men and women, respectively. Auden Channer and Emmanuel Spence won the men and women's 500m event, respectively.

The day also saw competitive relay events, the second staging of the paddle board race and the first ever showing of beach water polo, led by vice-president of the Aquatic Sports Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) in charge of water polo Lance Rochester.

Director of Jamaica Inn Foundation Kyle Mais was extremely proud of the event.

"We really couldn't be happier with the support of the community and all our sponsors for the third annual event," he said. "This is truly amazing and we can't be more blessed. We really think it's going to be putting open swimming squarely on the map, which is part of the intention."

Dr Carey Wallace, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) which partnered with Jamaica Inn Foundation for the event, says it was a success.

"It's multiple wins when you have an event like this," he said. "First one is that's it's a fund-raiser for the White River Sanctuary, and they are doing an amazing job in ensuring our marine environment is protected, [and] in addition, it's bolstering our sport tourism offerings in Jamaica. It's just a fantastic day on the beach in the paradise."

Title sponsors Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ) was thrilled to be part of the championship, according to Director of Retail Sales Rojah Thomas.

"CPJ is back on board for the third consecutive year through our philanthropic arm. Care Protect Jamaica major focus is the preservation of the marine ecosystem, [so] when the opportunity came up again to be part of the initiative we just had to be part of it," he said.

Swim For the Sanctuary also had strong sponsorship support through Scotia Life Insurance, Couples Resort, Jamaica Tourist Board, Wata, Rainforest, Digicel, Sagicor, Iron Rock INsurance, Marksman, S Hotels, One Great Studio, SMSTT's Rum, and Jamaica Inn.

Meet Director Alan Beckford and the organisers of the event are assuring that the fourth staging in 2024 will be bigger and better.

Olympian, Allan Roy Marsh, collects his Men's 5K Winner's Trophy From Rojah Thomas, Director, Retail Sales at CPJ at the Jamaica Inn Foundation Swim For The Sanctuary Open Water Championships on Saturday (CH Photography)
BY DANIEL BLAKE Staff reporter blaked@jamaicaobserver.com

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