by Donna Sealy
When Akeem Nurse introduces himself he looks you straight in the eyes.
He speaks softly, shakes your hand, and is very polite.
There’s something about the 15-year-old Deputy Headboy of St. George Secondary School that says he is focussed and driven.
Something that says he is on his way to achieving his goals and will do what he has to.
Take his recent feat in the inter-school swim meet held about a week ago at the Aquatic Centre.
He won five gold medals and one silver and had the honour of having his Constant, St. George school place sixth among the boys and ninth overall among the 15 schools that participated.
Get this though — he was the lone swimmer.
He won the 100 metres individual medley (1.05.57), the 50-metre butterfly (28.22), the 50-metre backstroke (30.93); the 50-metre breast stroke (30.93); and the 50-metre freestyle (26.12). He placed second in the 100-metre freestyle with a time of 58.35 seconds.
And even though he did not manage to break any records he is especially pleased that he beat his main rival, Alex Sobers, from Deighton Griffith, who swims for the Alpha Swim Sharks even though he won the 100-metre freestyle in 55.62 seconds.
Sitting in the quiet of the school’s library, the youngster who has been swimming for the last nine years with the Dolphin Swim Club, shared some of his plans, his love for the sport and what he likes to do out of the pool.
The Princess Royal Avenue, Pine, St. Michael resident has a routine that some might consider gruelling.
He goes to the pool nine times a week – four mornings and five evenings.
“I have to get in the water at 5:30 or earlier in the morning. Sometimes I don’t get out till 8 o’clock. I have to come here [school] to do work. Then I have to go back in the evening. My body has grown accustomed to it. I get up at 3:30 sometimes, I eat something then I go back to sleep. I get back up around 5 o’clock and my father comes and I go to the pool.
“When I get there I stretch to get the muscles loose before I get in the water around 5:15/5:30, then I swim to around 7:40 or 8 o’clock. Then my coach [Harold Lewis] takes me to school, sometimes if my father could, he takes me to home and then to school,” Akeem said.
He explained that he eats early so he can burn those calories when he’s swimming or doing his favourite event, the 50-metre butterfly.
When he’s training he does seven or 14 kilometres a day, which is about 120 laps, otherwise he sticks to the regime his coach has implemented.
“I like swimming because it keeps me occupied and keeps me fit. Before I started swimming I was actually fat… In swimming (the 120 laps) are a lot. I do get tired and over the years obviously it would get easier but you have to get tired to get better so that when you’re in competition it would be easier. You’d be able to sprint longer and have the endurance to finish stronger. Swimmers have more stamina and endurance,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Akeem has represented Barbados at both the Caribbean International Swimming Championships and Goodwill Games over the last two years. It was at the latter that he “made some personal best times in almost everything” and brought home a number of medals.
He is also keen on representing the country at CARIFTA but for one reason or another has not been able to so far.
When he gets angry the cooling waters calm him and is able to block out everything around him.
“Once I dive in the pool the thoughts just come right out of my head. It’s a different world, I can’t explain — I get lost in the water. Sometimes when you’re swimming 400 [metres] and if I take my head from that particular number, eight laps, I forget which lap I’m at, ” he said with a chuckle.
When he’s not in the pool or at school he likes to watch television, particularly Vampire Diaries, chat with his best friends Cianne Branch and Therese Gittens or you can find him doing assignments.
The Form 5G-3 student, who has placed first every term since the third term of second form, will be writing exams this school year and he hopes one day to own his own accounting firm.
What he would like very much is to obtain a swimming scholarship so he can pursue a degree overseas while doing what he loves.
He was full of gratitude for his parents Sylvia Nurse and Tyrone Agard as well as his coach. His grandmother too who prepared those early morning meals for him.
This is the third time he’s represented the school, and having won the six races, he would like the Acting Principal Dennis Browne, to implement a swimming programme for which he would volunteer his time to helping his peers learn to swim.
For now, he will continue to do what he does best — swim.
He wants to make a splash on the world stage and more specifically in the 2016 Brazil Olympics.
Remember the name Akeem Nurse — one day soon you just might see it on the scoreboard of a big meet where he will be representing the gold, ultramarine and black. firstname.lastname@example.org