The Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association is bracing for a tug-of-war with Canada over talented young swimmer Elan Daley.
Ben Smith, the national coach, fears that Daley’s haul of 11 gold medals at the Carifta Championships will spark some interest from Canada, the country where Daley lives with her swimming siblings Ethan and Elijah, who have also represented Bermuda, their country of birth.
Elan, who has just turned 13, was one of the shining lights in the recent Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, winning the 11-12 age group high points award and was also the high-point overall award winner in her second Carifta Championships. Logan Watson-Brown won the 13-14 age group high points award as Bermuda picked up 32 medals with Daley leading the way with some outstanding performances.
“It was obviously an amazing feat, I’ve been talking to her parents and encouraging her going forward,” Smith said. “Because of the competitor she is in Canada, Canada is keeping a close eye on her but obviously we would like for her to continue to compete for Bermuda and for Sharks.
“This is her home country and the country she should be representing. It is something that I’m keeping my eye on, trying to give as much influence as I can.
“With the pressure they’re giving her it would be understandable, it’s a much bigger country that gives a much broader support system than what Bermuda can offer.
“When you win 11 medals there are a lot of people paying attention. She also won the high points overall and didn’t just win Carifta gold medals but also in the fastest times anybody had ever swam those events.
“To have 11 events and win 11 gold medals — which was just the individual events as she also participated in getting us relay medals as well — that kind of sustained effort over four days was remarkable.”
Smith admits that he is not quite certain what her favoured events are, as she showed versatility over all distances.
“She’s a sprint freestyler, does distance freestyle, swims backstroke and butterfly and breaststroke, swims IM [individual medley], winning the 400 IM, so she covers every distance and every event,” he said.
“At one point she held every record in Bermuda in the 9 and 10 age group and has pretty much done the same thing in the 11 and 12 ... in every stroke and every distance. At this point, with her age, we’re still not really sure what swimmer she is going to be.
“Really, what you would want is to have her continue to push with all those events so that she keeps her options open. She’s so good at everything, which is what you really want.”
BASA is hoping that the Daleys will be able to come back to Bermuda to compete in the National Championships from May 17-20.
“They started at Sharks and then moved to Canada, so I’m hoping they are going to be here for the National Championships,” Smith revealed.
“I’m going to be working on that in the next couple of weeks.”
Smith is also the club coach for Sharks, a club who are enjoying an outstanding year, taken to another level by Daley’s feats at Carifta. Also in that team from Sharks was Madelyn Moore who won a silver and two bronze medals; Watson-Brown with three silver and a bronze; Brian Desmond (two silver); Sam Williamson (one silver); Elijah Daley (one bronze) and Skyler Powell, Gabriela Pittman, Jaedyn Judd and Taylor White, who won medals as part of relays.
In the past the Sharks have produced such swimmers as Roy-Allan Burch, Julian Fletcher and Rebecca Heyliger, World champion triathlete Flora Duffy also started as a swimmer with Sharks.
Jesse Washington and Madelyn Moore are the two latest to graduate from Carifta and move on to college. Washington is going to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas this autumn after he graduates from Warwick Academy. Moore, currently at Plymouth College in England, will attend the University of Northern Colorado on a full scholarship in the fall.
There are another exciting crop of swimmers coming through Sharks, led by the likes of brother and sister Harlan and Logan Watson-Brown, Skyler Powell, Sam Williamson and Imojen Judd, just ten years old, who won six gold and three silver medals in her age group at the recent Mallards Challenge in Canada.
Judd set a new age group record in the 200 backstroke where she lowered Emma Harvey’s record of 2:53.97 to 2:48.65. In the 400 metres freestyle she took the record from Jessica Bruton (5:32.65) with her time of 5:30.72.
The Sharks swimmers claimed 17 of the 20 records set at the Best of Best Series and Best Shipping Championships, with Washington setting seven records and Logan Watson-Brown, Keagon Woolley and Williamson three each.
In the series they claimed seven of the eight age groups, from Judd at 10 and under to Washington in the 15 and overs. In the Best Championships the Sharks won six of the eight age groups. With Jaedyn Judd, Logan Watson-Brown, Sam Williamson and Skyler Powell joining Judd and Washington.
“Across the board we’re really excited with the development of our athletes, and the way the programme is working,” Smith said.
“To know that I coached Flora up to 16 when she went off to boarding school, then you look at what followed with people like Roy-Allan, Julian and Rebecca. We’re continuing to do that as we go along the line. That sustained level of performance is what we’re really proud of.”
Smith accepts that sometimes the swimmers end up in other sports, like triathletes Duffy, Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley. “Look at Ashley Irby, who won medals for us in swimming and now she’s been to Carifta in track, which is similar to the path that Flora was on,” Smith added.
“We would like to congratulate Flora Duffy for continuing to make us proud around the world. Winning the gold medal at Commonwealth Games is another spectacular accomplishment. We would also like to congratulate Erica Hawley who was a member of the Bermuda triathlon team event that placed fifth overall.
“It shows that commitment to the sport can lead in multiple directions. Ashley still trains at Sharks five days a week and then fits in her running around that.
“We would like to congratulate Ashley Irby for her fourth place finish in Bahamas. She was a mere 1.2 seconds away from medalling in her first Carifta track after previously being a medallist at Carifta swimming.
“Taylor White, who won her age group in the Front Street Mile this year, is a Sharks swimmer who only trains in swimming. It shows what that kind of work when in the swim programme can do for all the sports.”