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Titus the swimming titan


rhondathompson, [email protected]

Titus the swimming titan

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Leah Martindale, Bradley Ally, Nicholas Neckles, and Damien Alleyne are some of the biggest names Barbados has ever produced in swimming.
 They have all represented the island and dominated at all age levels bringing glory to Barbados at regional meets, CISC and even CAC games. However none has broken through to give Barbados that all elusive first Olympic medal.
 Their failure has not been for lack of effort. But this can change. Cuban coach Antonio “Tony” Petrolanda thinks the island has at least eight quality swimmers capable of earning an Olympic medal.
He, however, thinks the system in Barbados needs to change if the island is to have a chance of making its mark. Of eight elite swimmers he singled out 11-year-old swimming sensation Danielle Titus as probably the most promising and the one that, “if handled right, can bring Barbados the most glory”.
But this is nothing new and one can understand the scepticism. We dreamed that all those who went before would have brought us that glory. The best so far has been two fifth places in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics from Leah.
Hopefully, Danielle may be different. For starters she is the first 11-year-old to meet a qualifying standard for a World championship. The Harrison College second former (she will be in second form next term) has so far amassed 606 FINA points in the 100 metres backstroke and 603 FINA points in the 50 metres backstroke, passing the threshold 600 set by Barbados Amateur Swimming Association (BASA).
If selected, she will become the youngest athlete to ever represent Barbados at a World championships in Doha, Qatar, later this year. However, the swimmer is unlikely to gain that distinction as, firstly, she is one of 16 who have so far qualified and BASA may not be in a financial position to send all of them.
Presently, she has the fastest time of all locally based swimmers in the 100 metres backstroke of any age group and is easily at least two seconds ahead of the others in her division.
As far as Barbados is concerned, many potential gold medallists have had to lose out simply because of economic reasons.
One remembers the headlines back in the 90s when the late Alfred Martindale complained that he was broke and could no longer afford to finance Leah’s preparation for the 1996 Olympics.
In the region most swimmers still depend on their parents to fund their campaign.
At the end of the last Olympics, Jamaican swimming sensation Alia Atkinson was still financially supported by her parents and at age 25 she is finally now reaping the benefits of a long haul finally  winning medals at a major games like the Commonwealth Games. Though yet to win a gold medal at a major meet, she is still, in the main, family funded.
Swimming is amazingly costly but in Danielle’s case can one expect a minor to be globetrotting to international meets without parental support? Of course, the parent has to also balance national interests with academic interests and so the road ahead for Danielle could be interesting if balanced with pragmatism.
The Leah Martindale lookalike is currently in her first year in the 11-12 age group. In the first half of this year she smashed five national age group records.
At the time of setting these records, had she been in the United States she would have had the fastest times in both the 100 metres backstroke with a clocking of 1:08.65 seconds and 50 metres backstroke in the time of 32.02 seconds. She would be ranked number 5 in the 200M backstroke with a time of  two mins, 30.06 seconds.
Titus is swimming two seconds behind Olympic gold medallist Missy Franklin of the United States at that same stage of her development in the 100 metres backstroke.
Yet Danielle’s feat of three gold medals at the Carifta Games in Aruba and four gold medals (all in the backstroke) at the recently held CISC should not be taken for granted. She accomplished all these in her first year in the age group, beating older swimmers to boot. (MC)

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