Alvaranga, Thomas eager for C'wealth Games experience
Jamaica's swimmers Nathaniel Thomas (left) and Zaneta Alvaranga

JAMAICA'S rising sensations Zaneta Alvaranga and Nathaniel Thomas believe they are both privileged to represent the island at the Commonwealth Games and are eagerly looking forward to what promises to be exciting debut appearances.

Both, along with Head Coach Wendy Lee, started their journey to England on Sunday to join their overseas-based compatriots — Keanan Dols, Sidrell Williams, Kelsie Campbell, Mackenzie Headley and Kito Campbell — ahead of the July 28 to August 8 games in Birmingham.

While Alvaranga and Thomas are relishing the prospect of again sporting the Jamaican colours on what will be the biggest stage of their careers to date, they are hoping it will be more than just a learning experience.

Alvaranga, in particular, has drawn memories from her World Short-course Championship experience which she believes will prove valuable for this occasion.

"Having the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth Games means alot to me because this is one of the highest levels of representation so I am just happy that I am able to represent Jamaica at such a prestigious level of competition — which is always a privilege," Alvaranga told the Jamaica Observer.

"So I am looking forward to going to Birmingham and just enjoying every minute of it. I believe it is going to be an incredible experience and again, I'm just excited and looking forward to going out there and giving of my best," she added.

Having recently produced a number of top performances at the Central American and Caribbean Confederation (CCCAN) Swimming Championships, Alvaranga said she is now refreshed and raring to go with hopes of extending her rich vein of form, if only just to improve her times.

At the CCCAN Championships in Barbados, Alvaranga copped nine medals — including five gold, three silver and one bronze — but she knows medalling at the Commonwealth Games will be no easy feat.

The 18-year-old Kaizen Swim Club representative is down to contest the 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle as well as the 50m and 100m butterfly events.

"I think I am in really good shape. I feel fit and strong in training and, looking back at my CCCAN performances, I seem to be on the right path so I am just looking forward to putting all the hard work on display and hopefully get some personal best times," she shared.

Thomas, 18, echoed similar sentiments but, unlike Alvaranga, he opted to keep his ambitions close to his chest, only sharing that improved times were also in his sights.

"Competing at the Commonwealth Games is a big step in my career as it is my biggest competition so far, and I am just honoured to represent Jamaica," Thomas told the Observer.

"I prefer to keep the specifics to myself but I am aiming for improvements in all my events," he disclosed.

Those events for Thomas are the 50m butterfly, 50m and 100m backstroke, as well as the 50m and 100m freestyle. He is also down for legs in the mixed freestyle relay, 400m and 800m freestyle relays, along with the mixed medley and medley relays.

While it may seem laborious on paper, the rising star is banking on his training to see him through.

"I feel great mentally and physically. My training has been excellent and I'm eager to see my improvement at the games. It's all about enjoying the journey and just attack each event as they come," the Tornadoes Swim Club stalwart noted.

Olympian Keanan Dols, the only member of the team with Commonwealth Games experience, believes it is a great opportunity for the younger swimmers coming through to show that they can be a very strong force.

"I think that it's a great opportunity for them to learn and gain experience swimming at this level. I hope that they can enjoy their experience and be motivated to continue to improve to keep getting opportunities at this level," he told the Observer from his base in the United States.

Dols, 24, is down to contest the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, along with the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley (IM) and the relays.

"I'm very excited about it and I am looking to have some good results. I get to swim a bigger schedule here and so I am looking to improve on my personal bests in events I haven't raced in a while," Dols said.

BY SHERDON COWAN Observer staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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