A former Olympic swimmer and swim coach believes with the right support, Montserrat could have its own competitive swim team.
Karin Clashing O’Reilly spent last week teaching swimming and water safety with the Fish ‘n Fins swim camp, which is part of the Summer Escape programme organised by the Government of Montserrat.
Coach Karin, as she is fondly known, has been swimming competitively since the age of 11 and coaching since the age of 16. During her time on island, she has identified several swimmers who she believes with the right training could put the island on the competitive swimming map.
Founder of Fish ‘n Fins Veta Wade agrees. “I have seen over the past four years how our children have made significant improvements in their techniques in freestyle, breast stroke and back stroke. The plan in 2019 is to select the children who are performing well and who have interest to work with them and show them their potential in competitive swimming.
“It will be important to align ourselves with people in the region who can help with that and the Wadadli Aquatic Racers (WAR) is just that.”
O’Reilly knows this is possible as she has watched how competitive swimming has changed since her mother started WAR Swim Club in 2006. “I used to go to competitions in St Lucia and be the only one from Antigua, now we take 35 swimmers, which is the maximum we can. There is a lot of competition to be selected. Antigua now has five swim clubs.
“There is potential here. We just need a really good structured programme. We are right there. Antigua has an obligation as an OECS territory to help the other islands in the OECS. We have to see how we can help Montserrat get to that competitive level.”
The olympian plans to work with Veta to move students from a learn to swim into a competitive programme. “If we have to start with the ocean then get them over to training camps. Montserrat can get to where we are and even surpass us.”
She recently met two young Montserratian swimmers at the WAR swim camp. She remarked that they were very coachable and had great attitude and could be the island’s first competitive swimmers.
Coach Karin, who still competes on the regional level, said the first goal should not be to win but to participate. “You don’t have to come in beating people. Just start and make your way to the top. Build connections. The Caribbean has many amazing connections in swimming who are willing to help the other islands. It will be so great to see what we as an OECS territory family can do for each other.”
Learn more about Fish ‘n Fins Kids at www.aquafishnfins.com .