Swimming took Bahamian Olympian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace off the island. Now, she hopes to help the sport take off on the island.
The former Auburn star is the lone female swimmer representing the Bahamas Olympic team in London, coming from a tiny nation where water play is largely the domain of tourists, not natives.
“It’s really sad. We’re surrounded by water, we’re literally surrounded by water, and so many people don’t know how to swim,” Vanderpool-Wallace said.
Algernon Cargill, president of the Bahamas Swimming Federation, estimates that 70 percent of the some 350,000 Bahamians can’t swim more than 50 meters. No swimmer from the Bahamas has made the Olympic semifinals.
Cargill said the sport’s popularity has increased significantly over the past 15 years, but that it has traditionally been regarded as an elite sport for private schools and the affluent.
Vanderpool-Wallace is already well-known at home. She’s the first Bahamian to win a medal at a world swimming meet, taking third at the 2010 Short Course World Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
He said if Vanderpool-Wallace even makes the finals “it would be a huge deal in the Bahamas.” No Bahamian swimmer has made an Olympic semifinals.
She won the NCAA’s 100 freestyle the past two years and the 50 free in 2011, finishing third as a senior.
Vanderpool-Wallace and Natalie Coughlin are the only women to break 47 seconds in the 50 free. She owns 10 Bahamian national records, including relays.
Source: The Washington Post