Swimmers' medal haul

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May 07, 2010

Three of the five swimmers from the Grand Bahama YMCA's Wave Runners Swim Club, who competed at this month's CARIFTA Games, returned from Jamaica with medals.

Aaron Levarity won two golds and a bronze, Taryn Smith won a silver and two bronze medals (two of them in individual events), while Maya Albury came back with a bronze medal.

Executive director of the YMCA, Karon Pinder-Johnson, said this was a testament to the quality of training that the YMCA swimmers are exposed to through Coach Iva Dreke.

Dreke has a graduate degree in physical education from Havana's Manuel Piti Fajardo Institute, and is an ex-member of the Cuban national swim team. She has been coaching in the Bahamas for 10 years, and has trained more than half of the top swim athletes in the country.

Three members of the Bahamas CARIFTA team also qualified for the CISC Games, which is scheduled to take place in Cuba this July. Those three are Taryn Smith, Aaron Levarity and Peter Farquharson.

"It shows that the swimmers in our program are getting the kind of training that is needed to take them to championship levels," said Johnson. "But we are also seeking to expand interest in swimming to a wider population."

Two years ago Coach Iva designed a Swim for Ocean Survival (SOS) program to teach as many children as possible - in the least amount of time and at minimum cost - the basic skills needed to survive in the water. Children as young as three years old are taking part in the program.

The introductory level teaches children how to save themselves if they fall into a pool. In the next level they are trained to spend more time in the pool or ocean. The last stage teaches children to swim 75 feet to safety in the open ocean. The entire SOS program can be completed in 12 sessions.

Once the safety training is completed, children can receive instruction in the basic swimming techniques required for competitive swimming. The SOS program also teaches them about the marine environment, on the principle that if a swimmer understands the nature of sea life and the oceans, most of the common hazards encountered in Bahamian waters can be avoided.

The SOS program is funded by a special grant from two Lyford Cay residents - Louis Bacon and Kris Lehmkuhl - who believe that enhanced water safety and respect for the environment should be a top priority for schools and communities around the Bahamas. "We are very grateful to these two gentlemen," said Johnson. "Because of them we have been able to teach basic skills to some 1,500 children from schools all over the island, providing a pool of kids who are able to enjoy swimming, and will perhaps participate competitively to raise the Bahamas' profile at international events."

According to Johnson, the YMCA's initial concern is for safety and survival. He said: "We have to get children waterproofed first so they know what to do in the event of an accident. That's our first three levels. Then we can introduce them to competitive swimming techniques."

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News date : 05/07/2010    Category : Sports

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