They were touted as a group most likely to medal in Glasgow, but the Cayman Islands swimming team will be coming home empty-handed.Cayman wrapped up its aquatics portion of the XX Commonwealth Games in Scotland with no medals.
With Geoffrey Butler, Lara Butler, David Ebanks, Brett Fraser, Lauren Hew and Alex McCallum sporting an impressive collective resume that includes Olympic appearances, Island Games and CARIFTA swim championship medals, the lack of hardware this time around is surprising.
The history books will show Fraser, 24, produced the best results with a fifth place finish in the 50 meter butterfly finals and a berth in the 50m freestyle semi-finals, where he ended up seventh in his heat. Fraser, who was outdone by Olympians like Chad le Clos of South Africa at the Tollcross International Swimming Center, says losing at this level is no disgrace.
“It’s just a matter of I’ve known these guys for a while, I’ve been racing them for a while,” Fraser said. “Everyone’s done their training, it’s fun to compete against these guys. I see it as more of an opportunity to just race and get better.”
After starring alongside his older brother Shaune at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Fraser barely fell short of making more history for Cayman. Fraser finished fifth in the 50m fly final in a time of 23.66 seconds, just behind England’s Adam Barrett (23.43 seconds), bronze medalist le Clos (23.36 seconds), silver medalist Roland Schoeman of South Africa (23.13 seconds) and gold medalist Benjamin Proud of England, whose time of 22.93 seconds also set a new Games record.In the 50m free, Fraser would finish fourth in his preliminary heat with a mark of 22.79 seconds before posting a time of 22.87 seconds in the semis.
The only other swimmer to reach the latter stages of competition would be Hew, Cayman’s youngest Games participant at 14 years old. She would place sixth in the 100m backstroke at 1:07.34 and be listed as a reserve for the semis and end up eighth in the 200m back at 2:27.16 before finishing fifth in the 50m back heats at 30.55 seconds and seventh in the semis at 31.08 seconds.
Prior to the 50m back semis, Hew said her team mates motivated her to perform well.
“I’ve been training quite hard this year and just to be here is pretty amazing,” Hew said. “I think with the atmosphere here I’ve been dropping time because of that, with the crowd and being part of a team with Brett, who is an Olympian and stuff like that. I think that just made me swim a lot faster.”
Another positive came from David Ebanks, a 32-year-old based out of Essex in England. In spite of placing second in the heats of the 100m breaststroke at 1:08.36, he missed out on the semis due to his time. From there, he would finish sixth in the 50m breaststroke with a mark of 30.04 seconds.
On the flip side, it would seem nerves got the best of three bright Under-21 prodigies in the Butler siblings and McCallum. During his heats, Geoffrey Butler was seventh in the 1500m free at 16:14.39; sixth in the 400m free at 4:06.78 and second in the 200m free at 1:57.13 (he missed out on the semis due to his time). Geoffrey Butler, 18, said after his 1500m swim that it was a forgettable showing on his part.
“It (the 1500m) was two seconds slower than my best so it was OK,” Geoffrey Butler said. “My best is my best so I can’t be too upset about that. You always want to do better and I only had one personal best this meet so it wasn’t my best meet. I don’t have that many excuses really, there’s no point putting excuses out there. Maybe just train a bit harder next year and hope for the best.”
During her heats, Lara Butler was eighth in the 100m back at 1:08.37, eighth in the 200m Individual Medley at 2:27.49, seventh in the 100m fly at 1:05.69 and seventh in the 200m fly at 2:22.53.Lara Butler, 19, said the spotlight did affect her.
“I’m thinking a lot of it is nerves going in,” Lara Butler said. “People here are like really, really good and tops in the world and in the call room, you seem them all getting ready. It’s cool being able to race them all but it’s scary at the same time.”
During his heats, McCallum was eighth in the 50m back at 28.27 seconds, eighth in the 100m back at 1:01.22 and fifth in the 200m back at 2:13.87.McCallum, 20, said after the 200m back that he was not fully fit for his races.
“I just didn’t really feel the water very well,” McCallum said. “I struggled the whole way through. I wasn’t feeling too confident about my swim but oh well, it’s just one of those bad days. You got to get back up and train stronger for next season. It’s my first big competition so I was a bit nervous really. It was one good swim and a couple of bad swims but it’s just another meet and I struggled. Leading up, I was a bit ill before – like three weeks ago. So who knows, if I wasn’t sick it may have been different.”