By Neto Baptiste
The Antigua and Barbuda Swimming Federation (ABSWF) said it continues to get very limited funding from both the government and the National Olympic Association here.
Vice President of pool-based swimming Darren Derrick, while speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, revealed that the body is mainly funded via fundraisers and parents, something he said should not remain the norm if the country’s swimmers are to become more competitive at an earlier age.
“Most of our funding comes from fundraising, parents, the majority of our support comes from the parents and that’s just parents funding their kids to go to meets so we get very limited funding from government and that puts us at a disadvantage. We get limited funding from out NOC which puts us at a disadvantage,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to some of our counterparts in the OECS and they get a considerable amount of support. We continue to have dialogue with them because they continue to fund the NOC funded meets [Olympic qualifiers] such as the Pan Am Games, Olympics, but the other meets and so forth, we don’t see a lot of funding,” he added.
A 34-member team recently competed in the OECS Swimming Championships held in St. Vincent where they finished fourth overall, recording over 100 finishes in the top five of various categories.
Derrick believes the sport is not given the priority it deserves.
“We talk to the government, we make our pleas, we ask for anything that any other sports association does, but we all know that finances are tight; and is swimming a priority for anybody in our sporting world and that unfortunately, is the sad reality of the thing. I would put it out there that right now, if I can boast, swimming is the best run association, and I think it has been for a while and we’re producing the most amount of medals,” the VP said.
“Every meet we have there are records broken, national records, age-group records and it shows that we are progressing. We go away, we are bringing home more medals every time. In this last time, we had 116 top-five finishes,” he added.
Derrick, who is also the father of a young swimmer, said the country has the talent to compete at a high level but adds that the financial burden is proving too much for those trying to propel the young swimmers forward.
“It’s not an issue of talent, it is an issue of money. We have top swimmers who are performing overseas that are performing extremely well and swimming is all about timing. We can look at the psych sheet, which is what comes out and says these are the swimmers and what they are ranked, and we can look at the times and know we can go there [St Vincent] with a team that can win, but the problem is that you need money to bring them back home,” he said.
“Just leaving from here [Antigua] we leave with a team of 34 swimmers, took three coaches, we took a team manager and all the support personnel which are the parents and so forth so that was over 50 people we went there with and it cost us over $100,000,” Derrick added.
The swimming federation has been one of the most successful bodies in Antigua over the past years, winning medals and setting new national records at various regional and sub-regional meets.
Also, Antiguan, Jadon Wuilliez, who is based in the United Kingdom, is currently ranked number one in his age group in the 50 meters breaststroke. He achieved the feat early in November after clocking 28.49 in the event at the South West Regional Winter Short Course Championships at Millfield, in the UK.