Cherelle Thompson

FLASHBACK: Top female swimmer Cherelle Thompson during a training session at the National Aquatic Centre, in Couva, in December. Thompson is targeting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in July. — Photo: ROBERT TAYLOR

AS THE Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT) gets ready to host its first local meet in 12 months, swimmers are excited to make a splash at their Long Course Age-Group Swimming Championships.

Four consecutive days of competition gets under way at the National Aquatic Centre in Balmain, Couva, from 6 p.m. today. And after a Covid-19-affected 2020, ASATT’s first vice-president Joseph Mc Leod said it couldn’t come soon enough.

“It’s been more than a breath of fresh air...because the pandemic and lockdown that we were under, was really stifling the sport,” the head coach of both the Atlantis Aquatics and Marlins Swim Club said. “We had swimmers that lost a whole year in an age-group and who were anxious.”

Mc Leod added most of the locally-based swimmers would have lost faith with some of their ambitions and goals because of the decimation of the 2020 swimming calendar both locally and regionally.

Mc Leod estimated this meet would go a long way in returning hope to the country’s young swimmers after a start-stop 2020 that only experienced enough of a relaxation of health restrictions last November, to allow for swim clubs to resume a complete training schedule.

“It will, I believe, definitely help bring back all those (swimmers), help motivate the children and bring them back to where they were before (onset of) the pandemic,” said Mc Leod, adding the meet will be available on a paid live-stream at swim.triniplay.com

The meet has been scaled down from its original five-day programme while ASATT’s proposed health protocols were approved last week by the district chief medical officer (CMO), granting them permission to stage the competition.

While the 2020 Carifta Aquatics Championships is no longer on the Caribbean aquatic calendar -- the intended hosts Barbados postponed the event indefinitely following strict health measures their government implemented to combat the surge of the novel coronavirus there— the competition will still serve as a qualifier for the July 23-August 8 Tokyo Olympics and the Junior Pan American Games, set for Cali, Colombia, in September.

Only the T&T-based Cherelle Thompson has a shot at improving on a B standard she achieved in January 2020 for Tokyo, while other age-groupers will be looking to step up from B marks to A for the Junior PanAm.

“We also not seeing CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Aquatics Confederation) also on the horizon because right now they are still looking for some country to host the CCCAN so that and all is up in air,” said Mc Leod.

One of four national meets to be hosted this year, the Long Course provides an opportunity for swimmers to showcase their talent after a few solid months of hard-training.

“They (the swimmers) are very excited,” Mc Leod said. “I think that when the swimmers heard that we were going to be having a meet, they changed a gear in terms of how they were training. They are very excited to get back in the competitive arena again locally, and the camaraderie they have missed out on that for some time now. It really will be refreshing for them to get back in it.”

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