NEW YORK, New York, February 18. ANDREW Mackay, the Cayman Islands first ever Olympic Swimmer got a chance to meet with his US idols, at last week’s at the Spring Nationals Orlando, FL.
Olympic champions Jeff rouse and Neil Walker were on-hand to provide support and guidance for the young Caymanian. The Olympic champs are frequent visitors to the Cayman Islands, participating in the destination’s swim program which provides world’s class training mixed with Caribbean sunshine.
An Olympic-caliber swimmer training in the Cayman Islands has been a common thread for the destination for the past decade. Many of the world’s best swimmers have asked to participate in the Cayman Islands Swimming Association’s tough distance-based program, while also getting a chance to bask in the frequent 87-degree sunshine and take in its stunning landscapes and crystal clear waters.
The success of the program is led by the efforts of former Austrailian-trained turned Cayman Islands resident and National coach, Dave Kelsheimer. The reputable staff includes US Olympic gold medalist Mike Barrowman.
“An Olympic swimmer obviously has strict standards on where and how to train, and for so many of these fine-tuned athletes to choose the Cayman Islands, it is a testament to the great efforts of our program and the destination in whole”, stated Kelsheimer. “With so many visitors to our program, it’s proven that swimmers can enjoy the beautiful weather of the Cayman Islands without sacrificing their need for world-class swim training.”
Last April, Mackay qualified for the Olympics, posting a qualifying FINA-standard in the 200m individual medley at the 2003 CARIFTA Caribbean Swimming Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. Overcoming disappointment when he failed to make the cut in his best event, the 100 m backstroke, Mackay rose to the occasion 30 minutes later, after Kelsheimer gave encouraging advice and support to the then 17-year-old high school student. “Lift your head up and be ready for the next race”, uttered Kelsheimer.
At the Pan-American Games in August 2003, Mackay not only improved his time in the 200m IM, but posted another Olympic-qualifying standard in the 400m IM, en route to becoming the first Pan-Am championship finalist for the Cayman Islands.
Being the first Caymanian-bred swimmer to qualify for the Olympics has made Andrew a legend in his hometown of Grand Cayman. But Andrew has raised the bar for himself and now desires further success on the US level with a strong showing at the Nationals and later this year in Athens.
Andrew has also been a highly touted-recruit by many top-tier US colleges and dreams of an NCAA championship are not far from his mind.
“I am so proud and excited to represent the Cayman Islands at the Olympics”, stated Mackay. “It means so much for me, our program and my country and when I hear my name and the Cayman Islands called out before my first heat, I’ll know that I will have the support and prayers of my homeland to guide me.”