Local swimmers will have the opportunity to seal a place at the Olympic Games, courtesy of the National Long Course, Age-Group Championship which will splash off on Thursday at the National Aquatic Centre in Balmain Couva.
Gresha Gonzales, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Amateur Swimming Association of T&T (ASATT) confirmed for Guardian Media Sports on Monday that the event received FINA sanction, which means: "This meet can qualify swimmers once they make an 'A' qualifying time or a 'B' consideration time for the Olympics, as well as participate at the Pan American World Youth Junior Championship," Gonzales explained.
To date, Cherelle Thompson is the lone female swimmer from T&T to have qualified for the world's biggest sporting stage following an impressive performance that saw her produce a blistering Olympic ‘B’ qualifying time of 25.39 seconds in the Women’s 50m freestyle event of the TYR Pro Swim Series in Knoxville, Tennessee in January last year.
With that performance, the 28-year old also splashed to a new national record, thereby wiping away her own previous time of 25.52s, which was produced at an Amateur Swimming Association of TT (ASATT) Invitational Meet at the Aquatic Centre in Couva.
With her time, she joined Jamaican Alia Atkinson, the other regional swimmer to have sealed a spot at the Olympics, alongside T&T's lone male swimmer Dylan Carter.
The event (National Long Course Age-Group Swimming Championship) will be the first meet for the year, coming just over a year after the sport was stopped for the COVID19 pandemic which broke in March last year.
Gonzales admitted that the event will also provide some activity for swimmers and clubs, noting: "In exactly one year and one week, was the last time swimmers would have participated in a swimming competition in T&T because of the pandemic. Most of the clubs have registered. We have approximately 172 swimmers registered. It would normally be about 200, so let's say we're looking at about 50-60 swimmers who have not registered for this meet."
According to Gonzales: "I can't give you the exact reasons as to why they have not registered, but we're looking at about 50 to 70 swimmers less, they would not be participating. We have to be mindful that some swimmers may have gained a few pounds, and some swimmers, because they're focusing on their schoolwork, may not be participating at this point in time. I can say, some swimmers may not have swum for the past six to 10 months, even though we got permission from the Prime Minister to issue club training in December of last year."