Nation e-Edition

Top swimmers reap rewards

Former long-serving president Sonia O’Neal (centre) receiving the President’s Award from current head Andrew Kirby and Aquatic Centre office manager Montana Atherley. (Pictures by Kenmore Bynoe.) Teen sensation Zabrina Holder showing off two of her awards. Most outstanding juniors Hannah Gill (left) and Damon St Prix with their prizes.

By Justin Marville | Tue, February 12, 2013 - 12:03 AM

She’s gone, but Sonia O’Neal is definitely not forgotten.

The woman, who once stood at the helm of local swimming, was back atop the sport for one night having won the President’s Award to highlight all prize-winners during Sunday’s annual awards ceremony at Hilton Barbados.

It was a surprising, yet deserved, honour for a long-serving administrator who worked tirelessly as the executive’s president for 12 years until shockingly declining to seek re-election last year.

But the year away from administration did nothing to dull her motivational skills, as O’Neal received a standing ovation after encouraging the swimmers not to shirk training or hard work.

“History is replete with examples of great sportsmen and women who have achieved greatness by embracing and accepting that greatness comes about by applying oneself to the rigours of training,” said O’Neal during her acceptance speech.

“Frankie Fredericks from Namibia stated at the National Sports Council’s awards ceremony that talent can be an elusive element and that one should not rely on it unduly as a medium for success in sports. The Olympic ideal also reassures us that the victory is not necessarily in the accomplishment, but in the struggle to attain the accomplishment.

“These references endorse the rigours of training and athletes must find a way to endorse these rigours as a medium for accomplishment. The struggle to achieve also builds character in the process and it is in this character that leaves footprints in the sands of time.”

The praises, or prizes, weren’t all reserved for O’Neal though, as standout swimmer Christian Selby copped three awards including a second successive Most Outstanding Senior Male of the Year crown.

It came in recognition of yet another record-breaking season that saw the teen titan win gold medals at CARIFTA and the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships (CISC) before going on to represent Barbados at the Short Course World Championships in Turkey.

For those efforts, he also won the Best Overall Male Performance in an individual swim at both CISC and those world championships.

Lani Cabrera was honoured as the Most Oustanding Senior Female after also copping the title for the Best Overall Female Performance in an individual swim at the world championships.

Like Selby, Cabrera’s year was filled with a series of national open and age group records, most notably in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 metres freestyle events.

CISC gold medallists Hannah Gill and Damon St Prix were awarded the female and male junior equivalents, respectively, while world championships head coach Abdul Sharif won Coach of the Year.

Sariyah Sherry took home the Leah Martindale Trophy as the most valuable swimmer at CARIFTA, while Zabrina Holder won the Victor Norville Memorial Trophy again after recording the best overall swim at the same meet.

Sherry also had the Best Overall Female performance in an individual swim at CISC.

Current Barbados Amateur Swimming Association president Andrew Kirby suggested the year’s performances were great, noting that as a small nation, Barbados “does a lot with very little”.

“Our sport has a great future but it does recognize that we need more,” said Kirby.

“We need more people involved, more assets and we need the Government to recognize our limitations. We need our Government to recognize that we live on an island and the average Barbadian cannot swim, [and] that needs to change.”

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