With Trinidad and Tobago’s hosting of 300 aqua-athletes and coaches from the United States and Canada, for the next couple of months, as part of their winter training camp, Newsday caught up with some of the foreign coaches and athletes over the weekend at the National Aquatic Centre, Couva.
Last Friday, the facility’s staff, along with the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith, welcomed the variious university and international athletes, for their swimming and diving training sessions, where they will be operating until March.
Seven teams are utilising the facility’s swim and dive pools, namely, Columbia University Swim & Dive ,USA; CAMO Natation,Canada; Pointe Claire (Canada), Sherbrook University (Canada), William Patterson University Swim & Dive (USA), Duke Univeristy Dive (USA), and the Canadian National Paralympic Swim Team.
According to head coach of the Canadian National Paralympic swim team, Vince Mikuska, on his first trip to the country, “This is a wonderful facility here in Trinidad because in Canada, we either have pools that are completely opened or closed, so to have a roof with the air flowing through and the outdoor ambiance is really great and relaxing.”
Mikuska gave an insight as to the weather conditions the team are escaping from by having their sessions here to properly prepare for upcoming tournaments. He detailed, “Back home in eastern Canada, it is as cold as it has ever been, so for the athletes to be here in a 30 degree-Celsius climate, makes everyone on the squad very happy and we are focused on working really hard on our objectives.”
The Canadian Paralympic contingent consists of 16 swimmers, 11 of which are going to the Commonwealth Games on the coast of Australia in April and the coach’s main focus is getting them ready for the tournament.
Mikuska also elaborated on the long term benefit of the training sessions that will be conducted over the next couple of months by stating, “It is always good to get the athletes used to travelling and different circumstances, so for us to be here, where it is warm, is going to help us in future. Also, initial preparations for the 2019 World Championships,which is scheduled for Malaysia, will also be on the lists of things to cover so, maybe they (the athletes) might remember the hot and humid conditions here and apply what techniques they learned to cope when they are competing.”
Also speaking with Newsday were students of Sherbrook University in Canada Simonne Couture, 24, and Hugo Lemay, 22, as they specified some of their personal goals they hope to achieve while training in a tropical climate. The team is currently preparing for the University Team National Championships in Canada, carded for late February.
Specialising in the butterfly event, Couture said, “With the pool being outside in the great sun, it allows us to reach a level of training that we cannot do inside or with the weather at home, because it is so depressing, so now we can fully focus on swimming and nothing else to deter us from reaching our goals.”
One major goal the 24-year-old set for herself while here, was to push herself to the next level and adapt to the conditions quickly so, she could maximise her performance. Her first time here, she continued, “It is really awesome to be here and the facility is really great, which motivates us to work really hard, but also enjoy some of this spectacular sunshine and heat while we are here.”
Lemay, who is also a butterfly specialist and is Couture’s schoolmate said in Cananda, “We rarely see a facility this spectacular and it is pretty new so this in itself motivates us to get in the pool and dive straight into the action. We are here to work hard everyday and train to the best that we can to improve our overall performances.” In an effort to aggressively market the facility to the aquatics community across the Americas, the Business Development Unit (BDU) of the Sports Company of Trinidad & Tobago (SporTT) spearheaded actions to attract teams towards TT as an ideal destination for training, particularly in the winter months.
The teams would be using the pools from as early as 6 am - 9 am for the morning sessions and 5 pm - 8 pm during the evening sessions.