Acquiring a new scoreboard and electronic starting blocks are among the plans to upgrade the National Aquatic Centre as Barbados prepares to host two major swimming championships in 2019.
While announcing Barbados’ team for this weekend’s Goodwill Swimming Championship to be held at the Aquatic Centre over the weekend, Barbados Amateur Swimming Association president Tony Selby broke the news this morning that Barbados had won the bid to stage the 34th edition of the CARIFTA Games in April and the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation [CCCAN] in early July.
“We received some funding from the Tourism Development Corporation which has allowed us to upgrade our washrooms, we are now in the process of completing the tiling in our washrooms. We are also putting up a new scoreboard, in addition to that, we are hoping to have our electronic new starting blocks come CARIFTA next year. What these blocks do, in addition to allowing you to have a back piece, it gives you a firm push off the blocks. They [blocks] are also electronically connected to the scoreboard which would show the reaction times of the athletes.
“In addition to giving the facility a facelift, we would like to deal with our pool deck and have it service treated. Our facility is twenty-eight years old and we are competing against countries like Trinidad who just spent millions and millions of dollars on a new facility, Martinique also two years ago have a brand-new facility. So, it is important that we upgrade our facility,” Selby said while admitting it was a financial burden to get things done and thanked the Barbados Olympic Association, National Olympic Association and most recently the Tourism Development Corporation for coming on board.
According to Selby, Barbados was successful in winning the bid because of its geographic location, facility and with the price.
“The games are tendered among the federations in the region. Our facilities, of course, having a long course meter pool is an advantage right away because there are several federations that do not have long course pools. In addition, the distance to and from the games hotel from the aquatic centre would be an advantage and of course, price. Except for the federations in the north, our geographical location is ideal from Antigua and all the other federations coming south of Antigua. It is only the Bahamas, Jamaica and Aruba that would be far out. So, by the time people analyse the cost of getting here by plane versus the rates that we have included for accommodation and meals for hosting the meet [CARIFTA], Barbados is very well positioned in that regard,” Selby said.
Barbados is no stranger to hosting those two events having held CARIFTA in 2015 and CCCAN in 2014 but considering this country has only one facility to host swimming, Selby doesn’t see it as being problematic in relation to organizing those two championships.
In fact, he made the point that CARIFTA swimming is independent of track and field and said even though the national stadium is not suitable for hosting track, the Aquatic Centre facility is certainly up to standard and that BASA is looking forward to putting on a good event when that time comes.
“Trinidad has seven swimming pools around the country, unfortunately, we have one pool and we have been lobbying for some time now for a second, and there has been a lot of talk about having one at the University of the West Indies, but that hasn’t materialized so far. But a second pool in the North [I should say in the Warrens area] would be a tremendous asset. With the traffic in Warrens, all the schools to the North, it can be a real hassle to get here as we are in the South. So, a pool in the North would do wonders for the development of the sport in Barbados,” Selby said.
As president, Selby said he was quite satisfied with the level of swimming being displayed by the national athletes. He highlighted Jack Kirby and Louis Sebastian Weekes who have made A qualifying times for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, along with Danielle Titus who has made B qualifying times for the Games.
Unfortunately, because of limited available space, the International Olympic Committee has granted Barbados only one spot in swimming and therefore Kirby was the preferred choice having accomplished A qualifying times on five occasions.
For the upcoming CARIFTA Games next year, the other bright prospect is Nkosi Dunwoody along with Danielle Treasure who will be moving from the age 13 to 14 category through to 15 to 17. Olympian Alex Sobers is past the CARIFTA age but will be one to watch at CCCAN along with McCallum Clarke, Tristan Pragnell and Ron Baker.
“For the first time in a long time, we have had three athletes make finals at the CAC [Central American and Caribbean Championship] just completed, Alex Sobers, Jack Kirby and Louis Sebastian Weekes. So, I think swimming is on the up and up,” Selby said.