'We need help' - Synchro coach calls for more support for J'can swimmers
Olga Novokshchenova, coach of Jamaica's synchronised swimming team, is calling for more local support for the sport and wants a swimming pool established in Port Antonio, where she and most of the girls are based.
Novokshchenova argues that the development of a young prodigy like Nyouka Baugh (Carifta 15-18 age group gold medallist) will be hampered by the limited opportunities she has to participate against quality opposition in her efforts to keep improving.
"I have led this programme in Port Antonio for 10 years now, and Nyouka has been with me since she learned to swim. She has made great progress, and we are hoping that one day, we make it to the Olympics," Novokshchenova told The Gleaner.
"But for us, funding is really hard. This summer, we want to take our swimmers to the competitions that we need to go, like after Carifta is CCCAN (Central American Caribbean Swimming Confederation) in Aruba, and after that, we want to go to the Pan American Synchronised Swimming Championship and so, we will have to raise US$50,000 ($6.2 million) to do it in the summer. So if we get the funding, we will carry five kids," she said.
Not enough competitions
Although the girls do attend international competitions from time to time, the coach insists it is not nearly enough to make her swimmers world-standard competitors.
"We really hope that it (funding) will happen. Synchronised swimming is not very big in Jamaica, so basically, you have no competition here. So for her (Nyouka) to go to the next level, we have to get her out of the country. We have to travel.
"Last year, we only attended two international tournaments because we couldn't afford any more. We don't have the money. But this year, I want to take her to Europe. There is a competition called the Mediterranean Cup, which is a world championship for her age group (13-15), and I think she is ready for it," she said
Although some support has been coming in from private individuals, she says the sport needs much more assistance to grow.
Meanwhile, the Russian Olympian believes that a swimming pool in the Port Antonio area will increase interest in the sport and provide greater access to a proper training facility.
"We are doing everything we can to make it grow, and we are hoping that it will. Most of the coaches are in Kingston. We need more coaches for them (the girls), and in Portland, we need a swimming pool. I built a pool in my yard, and that's how we practise, but it's kind of out of the town, so it's hard to get there. If we can get a swimming pool in town, we'll have lots more swimmers," she stated.