Jamaica has won 78 Olympic medals. However, there has never been a Jamaican synchronized swimming team, and the country has never won an Olympic medal for an aquatic sport. But there's one girl squad aiming to make history, the New York Times reports.
Ajoni Llewellyn, 17; Katana Blount, 10; Joydayne Whyte, 9; Laila Bailey, 12; and Nyouka Baugh, 15, train four days a week and call themselves The Island Aquatics Synchro Club. Their group is the only synchronized swimming club in the entire country.
“My dream is to make synchronized swimming more known in Jamaica,” Baugh said.
Because there are no public pools in Port Antonio, Jamaica, the team members train for three hours each day at the house of their coach. Olga Novokshchenova, who presides as coach, estimates that she has taught about 100 swimming students in the 12 years she's lived in Port Antonio. The Russian two-time Olympic synchronized swimming gold medalist has picked up the area's strongest swimmers in an effort to build a synchronized swimming team. She has yet to have a team compete at the Olympics.
One of the reasons is that the Olympics require partners to be in the same age range. Baugh had a partner she swam with quite well, but the girl moved away. Other members of the team have dropped out due to costs.
The swimmers have to taxi both ways four days a week just to get to training. Each swimmer's parents also pay $100 every three months, international traveling costs, tournament fees and equipment costs. Despite the club's heavy reliance on private donations and fundraisers to raise money for these expenses, not all of the parents can afford to have their child in the program.
While this has kept the team small, it hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of the five member squad.
“We swim for Jamaica,” Bailey said.
Last year, the team traveled to Orlando, Florida, to compete in a junior Olympic championship. Bailey and Whyte won first place in the duets category; Bailey got second place and Whyte came in fourth place in the 12-and-under category; Baugh came in third place in the solo category and second in duets in the 13-15 age group, and Llewellyn placed fourth in juniors.
The team is already preparing for their next competition, and continue to have their sights set on their ultimate goal.
“It is my dream to continue swimming, to win and go to the Olympics and come first,” Whyte said.