THE Swimming Union of the Americas, Union Americana de Natación (UANA), an international governing body in the Western Hemisphere for amateur aquatics, has announced that Orlando Health National Training Center in Clermont, Florida, will host the FINA-sanctioned 2021 UANA Tokyo Olympics Swimming Qualifier. The event will be staged from tomorrow, Thursday April 29th – Sunday 2nd May 2021.
The qualifiers are in partnership with Azura Aquatics, Montverde Aquatic Club, Lake County, Orlando Health National Training Center and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission.
One of Saint Lucia outstanding male swimmer has his sights set on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in Japan. The race is on for Jayhan Odlum – Smith to meet the Olympics qualifying standard. He is the national record holder in the 50 meter and 100-meter fly.
With just 85 days remaining for the biggest sporting event to take place (July 23), Odlum – Smith, a member of the Seajays Swim Club, is hard at work with hopes of securing his place on the Saint Lucia Olympic team when he competes in the four-day event.
Odlum – Smith is currently attending Azura Swim School in Florida, USA and is under the watchful eyes of acclaimed Italian coach, Gianluca Alberani.
This reporter spoke to Maureen Croes UANA President at the weekend about the upcoming qualifiers and the Saint Lucia Aquatic Federation and more.
“UANA is the organization that is in charge of aquatics for the entire Americas continent. My personal stake in this, I am from Aruba and the Caribbean is very important to me. As we are approaching Tokyo Olympics, we were realizing that they were very few opportunities for the Caribbean and Central American Swimmers to have the opportunity to race and to swim qualifying times for Tokyo, so we decided that we needed to help and provide opportunities, so eight weeks ago we decided to pull this together and we did”.
In terms of the number of countries participating, Croes said, “We have a total of 332 athletes participating and they represent more than 50 countries, there are actually swimmers from all five continents, it s not that they are travelling all the way for example there is a swimmer from the Cook Islands, there are not coming from there, they’re in college in the USA and they using it as an opportunity to race, but we have from the Americas Continent 31 countries represented in the coming days”.
Is this the final qualifier for those participating? “No, it’s not the final opportunity, but again in swimming, you have multiple opportunities, because any swimming meet that has requested to be a qualifier. and that is following all the guidelines stipulated by FINA to be a qualifier, can become a qualifier, Croes said.
According to Croes in three weeks there will be a qualifier in Puerto Rico. Barbados will have an event at the end of May that may or may not be a qualifier. She said there are more opportunities for swimmers up until the deadline date of Monday 28th June.
So, what’s next for UANA?
Croes said, “We have the artistic swimming qualifiers for Cali, Colombia in September. Cali will be hosting the Junior Pan American Games, this event will be the first time ever they will be putting on a Junior Games for the entire Americas. At the end of May in Aruba we will be hosting the qualifying event for artistic swimming, actually this event coming up in Orlando, Florida also allows the times to be used to be qualifier for Cali”.
What’s UANA view on the Saliva Covid-19 testing every day during the Tokyo games?
“Any event we have athletes representing at we want it to be safe and right now it is so difficult to even put together events because of all the protocols rules, and every country is different and the situation in Tokyo is very concerning, they need to be as strict as possible”.
“In Florida people have to arrive with negative test, they have to prove it is negative and during the event we have strict guidelines, we are not allowing spectators in, we are doing temperature checks/tests. When you enter the gate you will be checked. We have to respect any organizing committee. Whatever the rules they’re putting into place, is to keep our athletes safe”.
How do you view the Saint Lucia Aquatic Federation’s (SLAF) growth over the years?
“Let me start by saying Saint Lucia is one of our model federations. Over the past year since the pandemic we have been doing a lot of activities to stay connected. I have used Saint Lucia and the work the SLAF has done as examples..
“Saint Lucia has come a long way, it may be a very small federation, but when you compare it with the USA and Mexico, the work that the SLAF does, the dedication of the people that are involved is noteworthy, it shows in the results. The last live swimming event we were at was the UANA Cup in Lima, Peru in February of 2020 and Saint Lucia was nothing but exceptional there, they had great results, one of the few Caribbean Islands that won medals”.
“In Peru, we had the powerhouses like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Those are countries that’s been around for a long time and Saint Lucia was able to win many medals, including gold and that’s impressive. Saint Lucia is doing a fantastic job in developing aquatics and I certainly hope they can get the aquatic center to start hosting meets. I think once they start doing that they will be hosting UANA events and I am excited for that”.
Does UANA present financial and technical resources to its member to further their development and what are some of the areas you normally assist in?
“We certainly provide assistance in development area for coaches, officials and administrative assistance for leadership. During the pandemic, the focus changed. We were able to pull a lot of attention on that. We like it so much we are going to continue it even thought we may start having life events again. We want to continue doing these virtual workshop, courses”.
“The financial part is a little bit more difficult, UANA is not a professional business that has a monthly income at all. We are working to see countries hosting events turning these events into profitable events. We are doing a lot of things that we are hopefully going to turn federations into stronger organizations so they can start making money”.