“For them to get an opportunity to go represent their country on a world stage like this is once in a lifetime opportunity,” stated Thad Schultz, Aquatics Director at SPIRE.
Meli Malani, Hannibal Gaskin and Corey Ollivierre are three swimmers training here at SPIRE who will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Meli Malani, from Fiji, will be competing in the 50 free and 100 free in the upcoming Olympic Games. His mother started him in swimming about eight years ago and it wasn’t until he started improving and winning medals that he gained interest in the sport. He never really saw the Olympics as being something attainable for him until more recently.
“I didn’t really aim for the Olympics when I started swimming. About three years ago when I started winning meets, international meets, New Zealand, Australia, some down in San Francisco, Florida, and it was really motivating, so that made me feel, like oh, maybe I’ve got what it takes to go to the Olympic Games,” said Malani. “I’m very excited to go to Rio, I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil and I finally got a chance and it’s the Olympic games.”
He leaves this week for Fiji for the Oceania International Meet, then comes back to SPIRE where he will train until the Olympic Games.
“I feel great. Excited at the same time. I’ve competed against some of the top swimmers down in the World Championships in Russia, and I had a little bit of stage fright, the first time. So I didn’t do that well. So hopefully at the Olympic Games I’ll do much better, and by the time I get up for my race I’ll be ready.”
Another SPIRE athlete to compete in this years Olympics is Hannibal Gaskin, from Guyana, who will be competing in the 100 fly and 100 free. He used to swim with his oldest sister, although at the time, he said he wasn’t very good in comparison to her. In Guyana, much like Fiji, when chosen to go to the World Championships, a spot on the Olympic team is guaranteed. For the time leading up to the Olympic Games, he will be focusing on regular training then tapering and strategies.
“It’s a pretty nice opportunity so I was excited, happy and grateful. I’m most excited about the actual competition to see if I can drop some time. Priority would be the actual competition,” said Gaskin.
Lastly, Corey Ollivierre, from Granada, will be yet another SPIRE swimmer to compete in the 100 breast stroke at this summer’s Olympic Games.
He saw the Olympics as an ultimate goal for him at a young age, after competing at a regional level for his country.
“At that point I saw the Olympics as being a goal, but a goal far from where I was at that point. A goal in the future but I guess it carried over through the years, so that was probably 2010. Because that was the first time I ever got a medal on a regional level at the Caribbean Swimming Championships and from then I think the motivation to eventually compete at the Olympics kept me going to this point now,” said Ollivierre.
He is very excited and honored to compete for his country at the Olympics. Just prior to the Olympics, he will leave for the Bahamas to compete at the Caribbean Swimming Championships.
“The feeling is, it almost feels like you wanna call yourself one of the best athletes in the world also. You’d be in the same heats, you’ll be in the same warm-up pool, the same village. So it’s a good feeling, although I’ve been to meets where I’ve competed against top athletes. There’s nothing like the Olympics, so I mean that’s the biggest stage so it’s a great feeling,” said Ollivierre.
These three soon-to-be Olympic swimmers are at SPIRE through FINA, the world governing body for swimming. FINA’s job is to create rules and monitor the sport for every country in the world. Each country has a Federation that supports their athletes in their quest to achieve each swimmers Olympic dream. Countries with less opportunities and funds have fewer chances for their athletes to receive state-of-the-art coaching and facilities.
According to Schultz, each swimmer selected by their federation is asked to choose from one of three official FINA training sites, one of which is SPIRE Institute. FINA provides opportunities by supporting programs like ours here at SPIRE.
Schultz said that as a coach, his role is to help them be ready to race at the highest level on the Olympic stage.
“I was excited for them. I just hope they get a great life experience out of it. They are great guys; they’ve been working really hard,” Schultz said.
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