By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Elinah Phillip will line up in Lane 8 in Heat 6 at 12:02 p.m. on Friday, becoming the first BVI woman to swim in the Olympic Games as the BVI Swimming Federation—formed in 2008—makes its debut and becomes the third sport behind Athletics and Sailing to compete in the Summer Olympic Games since the territory’s debut in Los Angeles in 1984.
Phillip is coming off winning a bronze medal in the 50m Freestyle at the United Kingdom Summer National Championships in Sheffield, England at the end of July.
Phillip who was ranked fifth heading into the competition, recorded a time of 26.65 seconds to finish third, after a 26.86 in the heat. Her best is 26.56.
“It was a good swim and I felt a lot more powerful than I did in the heats in the morning session,” Phillip, 16 said. “I know I can swim faster because I have in the past so, I’m excited.”
Phillip said she was working on her finish since that’s an area in which she loses most of her time. She finished and started well and said she’s happy.
Her time came 14 days before she would make her splash in Rio and said at the time, “this helped me because I now know where I am at the moment so now I know what I need to do and where I need to get stronger and it gives me a good idea of how I’ll swim in Rio,” she stated.
She was fourth in the 50m Butterfly in 28.35 seconds just off her best of 28.16 and said it was an ok performance since she hadn’t been concentrating on it for the past few months. “I didn’t swim as well as I wanted to, but, I still think I’m in pretty good shape for the fly based on what I’ve been doing,” she said.
In the 100m Freestyle where she was ranked No. 27, she finished in 17th in 59.84 seconds then led off her 4x100m relay was a personal best of 58.93.
“I’m very excited about Rio,” said Phillip who was just eight when her federation was formed in 2008 and has been granted a wildcard by swimming’s governing body FINA. “I was very anxious because I had to wait a couple days longer than I expected, so it I feel like it meant more when I got the news. I feel honored to be the first of many and I think it shows that we are coming along and improving in all sports.”
The past year has been a good one for her she said since 2014 wasn’t one of her best and she felt she had a lot to prove to herself.
“I made a lot of improvements time wise, stroke wise, mentally, physically and everything else,” she pointed out. “It has been really good and I’m excited to see what I can do in Rio.”
Having competed regionally at the OECS Championships and the Carifta Games and internationally at the FINA World Long and Short Course Championships, Phillip said she feels they have been a steppingstone, for the Olympics.
“I’m surprised actually,” she said of going to the Olympic Games after a short career in swimming but has seen rapid improvement. “I never really imagined this happening but I guess if you work for it, you can achieve it.”
Phillip says she likes the 50m Freestyle in that that you don’t have to think about it when you do it. “You just dive in and go with not too much thinking,” she said. “It’s a splash and dash, just do what you have to do and get it done.”
Phillip’s mother Tracy Bradshaw represented the BVI in track and field and won the territory’s first female medal at Central American and Caribbean Jr. Championships level, while her father Elsworth is a volleyball player.
Elinah who swims along with sister Amarah, said it has been interesting coming from not having much of a background in swimming and the BVI doesn’t have a in Olympic pool.
“We really get to explore it ourselves and get to choose the races we want to do and it has been more individual in a way because we have a deeper understanding of it than anybody we may have grown up with,” she said.