As they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining and for Pirates Swim Club the Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) has resulted in some positive lessons to be taken away from the entire experience, says president René Dulieu.
As the world grapples with this deadly virus, Dulieu said while the club was greatly affected, it also shows that nothing should be taken for granted.
“Firstly, I think that all of the team really got to realize how close they all were and how they missed each other over the lockdown period. Secondly, we all learned other ways to stay in shape besides swimming (such as skipping, jogging, ‘land training’ and weight training) and how these exercises can positively influence and complement the swimming programs to make us even stronger in the water,” Dulieu told Barbados TODAY.
“During the lockdown, we were unable to train for a month which is a very long time in the world of swimming and the majority of swimming competitions, both local and international, were cancelled. However, compared to the rest of the world I would have to say that we were fortunate in that after lockdown, although the pool remained closed, we were still able to start back swimming in the sea.
“Also, Barbados, through the excellent work of our government and citizens, was able to keep the virus under control, for the most part, enabling most of the island and our team to get back to some semblance of normalcy relatively quickly. However, with that being said, and due to the increased protocols and restrictions at the pool, our Learn to Swim program has been very negatively affected due to the decreased allowable Student-to-Instructor ratio. This program has always been a vital source of income for our club and it has put a strain on us. We have however managed to compensate for this with various small fundraiser programs,” he added.
As a club, he explained they were able to cope through the great efforts of all involved including the management and the parents.
“During lockdown with a combination of management and parent volunteers we put together an amazing “land-training” program which kept the kids (and some parents!) in shape, entertained and engaged. After lockdown, our coaches organized a very thorough program for swimming in the sea.
“Once the pool opened back up, the coaches turned up the intensity and made up for the lost time. The athletes have been coping tremendously. It never ceases to amaze me at how resilient kids are. They have adjusted extremely well to the various protocols around the pool and have taken all in stride and as if they had been following these for years. They also took on the tough training programs and have reaped the benefits accordingly,” the president said.
Pirates currently have 63 members and gained an additional 11 during the lockdown. Out of that total two of them are from the newly instituted one-year visa program implemented by the government of Barbados.
With the National Aquatic Centre pool being closed again because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases the club is now once again affected.
However, Dulieu is happy with how the swimmers from Pirates Club performed recently at the short course national championship.
He noted they had a tremendous amount of personal best times and goodwill qualifying times. Pirates, he said, completely dominated the meet with a total of 147 medals – 63 gold, 47 silver and 37 bronze.
Pirates’ swimmers won three out of the four “Most Outstanding Swimmer” high point trophies at the meet. Danielle Treasure took home the top Fina points Female Senior Trophy and Diego Dulieu took home the top Fina points Male Senior Trophy. Kaija Eastmond captured the trophy for the Most Outstanding Junior Female.
Diego Dulieu achieved one new national age group record in the Boys 15-17 in the 1500 meter freestyle event. In the 9-10 age group, a new record was set in the 400M Freestyle relay by Jaiya Simmons, Heidi Stoute, Fayth Jeffrey and Toria Alleyne.
Pirates then participated in the Dolphins “Bridging the Gap” swim meet one week later. The club dominated once again and took home the Team 1st place trophy with a total of 61 medals – 26 gold, 23 silver and 12 bronze.
The strong 9-10 Girls team of Heidi Stoute, Jaiya Simmons, Toria Alleyne and Fayth Jeffrey set a new age group record in the 200M Freestyle relay, while the senior team of Danielle Treasure, Luis-Sebastian Weekes, Keilani Talma and Diego Dulieu set new mixed relay records in the medley and freestyle events.
The president also expressed how elated he felt about the recent commitment of Tristan Pragnell to Columbia University (Division 1 Swimming) in the United States.
Tristan lives and trains in the United States but returns to Barbados every year and joins his Pirates’ teammates for training and competitions such as CARIFTA, C.C.C.A.N and UANA Swimming Cup. According to Dulieu Tristan has his eyes set on the 2024 Olympics and they are expecting great things from him.
Looking ahead to the 2021 CARIFTA swim meet in Barbados, Dulieu said based on Pirates’ performance at the Short Course Nationals and Dolphins Swim Meets, he was confident that they were on track to have a solid team for CARIFTA.
However, with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases and the subsequent closure of the pool, everything is very fluid.
“We are hoping that the pool will be able to open back soon so that the kids can get back into a training routine. We are also hoping that the country can get the current Covid situation under control quickly in order that Carifta can still be held at the end of March as planned. Once back in the pool we will train as though it will happen and hope for the best.
“This year, and assuming that we will once again get things under control as a nation, we plan on getting back into the water as soon as possible and training as though Goodwill, Carifta, CCCAN and Panam Games are going to happen this year. We will obviously continue to follow all protocols and encourage the kids to try not to socialize and be out and about as little as possible. I sincerely hope that after the first half of the year things will stabilize and we will return to some semblance of normalcy,” Dulieu said.
He added: “Last year in August we hosted our second Pirates Open Water Splash. This was a huge success as it was a few months after the lockdown, there had not been any other sporting events for some time and many athletes were already training in the ocean. We had over 120 participants from all age groups.
“Everyone had a great time and there was definitely an air of excitement and energy from the participants who were noticeably happy to compete again and be out in the fresh air. It is definitely on the cards for us to host at least one Open Water Splash this year but preferably two of them, one before June and one before Christmas. There have been a lot of requests and we are hoping to satisfy these very shortly.”