I write in relation two articles appearing in the sports section of the Guyana Times covering the 18th Goodwill Swim Meet, those of August 19 and 20 entitled “Van Lange propels Guyana to relay gold” and “Guyana end on high note”. While I am appreciative of the efforts of the newspaper to cover swimming, the inaccuracies and insensitivity in the two stories have left at least one swimmer disappointed by the coverage and somewhat discouraged about the way she is portrayed.
The first article which described the progress of the first relay race said that apart from Van Lange, the other swimmers had “proved that they were not hard to beat” and that Van Lange, in winning the race for Guyana, had to close a gap of over 25M, in other words more than one length of the pool.
If one is to take the statement at face value, it would then be more accurate to say that all the swimmers who swam against Van Lange proved that they were not hard to beat bearing in mind her overall performance.
To single out the local swimmers before the end of the competition and to make such a harsh statement can only be described as insensitive and unfounded as at least one other swimmer in the age group, Athena Gaskin, went on to secure individual medals. Two of the swimmers who swam this race, and all the others they participated in, did so with injuries.
Soroya Simmons, in particular, had only two weeks before come out of a foot cast and then had reinjured the same foot a day before the start of the competition.
She limped throughout the Meet but was determined that she would swim and could not rob the girls’ relay team of a chance to medal and the team as a whole in securing valuable points, which they did on all three occasions they swam as a relay team.
She had trained only minimally just before the Meet.
Steffi DeNobrega could have also easily given in to her knee injury but instead she pushed that aside and did her best. These girls could benefit from positive coverage or none at all if it will not boost their morale or do anything positive for their psyche.
To clarify how the relay race progressed on Day 1, Simmons who swam the third leg had already begun to close the gap that had been created and had reduced it significantly when Van Lange took over for what was less than one length of the pool to finish the race. The team and the Guyanese spectators at the pool were happy that Van Lange finished off the race in the manner that she did, and we are happy about all her achievements, but a relay team is a relay team.
Your newspaper in the later article again leaves one to wonder if we were witnessing the same relay race on day 3. Simmons who has borne the brunt of misinformation is again described in a negative way as making a “blunder” in being slow off the [sic] “kick board” and in trailing in handing over to Van Lange.
In the first instant, Simmons got off the starting block in good time and when she handed over the last leg to Van Lange she was ahead of the Trinidad swimmer who swam the same leg as her. Van Lange finished off wonderfully and with a significant lead but she had no deficit to clear.
I wish to applaud the efforts of a relatively inexperienced Team Guyana who did not have the opportunity or time to train as the other visiting teams. While we had hoped we would win medals, our main aim was to secure as many points possible as we did not have the numbers similar to the other teams we competed against.
Congratulations to Britany Van Lange who won the girls 15-19 age group award and who represented Guyana superbly during the Meet. I also wish to publicly congratulate all the other medalists, those who did not medal but improved their personal best times, and to especially thank the out of town swimmers who gained Guyana some valuable points.
Jean La Rose
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