By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Elinah Phillip kicked off her 50m Free competition on July 31 in the Tokyo Olympic Games, with a second placed heat finish. She improved her placing by a spot from 2016, when she swam in the same heat and same lane. In the process, Phillip became the second BVI woman behind Tahesia Harrigan-Scott to become a two times Olympian. Harrigan-Scott who was the Chef de Mission in Tokyo, competed in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the 100m.
The 21-year old who was out of the sport for eight months, transferred from Rutgers to Florida International University before returning to the water in January, had a personal best and national record sprint of 25.74 seconds. She was the fastest among Caribbean swimmers and was 34th of the 81 competitors.
“I had a pretty hellish year leading up to this and I know it’s a miracle that I’m here—not because of the pandemic—but because of so many other personal reasons,” an emotional Phillip said. “I’m just so proud of myself. That’s something I don’t say often, but I thank everybody in the lead up to this. I went through a lot. I made it and I’m just so happy.”
Phillip, who learned her craft on Long Bay Beach, Beef Island, along with sister Amarah, taught by their father Elsworth, became just the seventh two times BVI Olympian after debuting in Rio in 2016. Her sport joined track and field and sailing in being Olympic Games representatives at least two times.
“I had a new national record, a personal best time, I really couldn’t ask for more—I feel like the luckiest person alive right now,” Phillip said. “Today is a very big day for me,” added Phillip who completed a summer course in dentistry with Columbia University that ended the same day of her Olympic Games competition. “Now I have two weeks off—I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet—but I feel incredible. I swam a time I’ve been trying to swim for years so I’m so happy.”
Coach Brien Moffitt, who has guided her since January, said he was very, very proud of her swim, which came on the biggest stage with a personal best.
“We were both very excited that we were able to get in a good training block but even more looking forward to building off of this, into the next collegiate season and into next summer as well,” he said. “There are a couple things in the race we both feel could have been a little bit better so we’re just excited that we were able to be our best when it mattered the most.”
Moffit said her exit and taking an extra stroke to the touch at the finish, she left “2/10s of a second or so in the pool,” something they’ll be cleaning up.
Moffitt believes Phillip could cut the .74 off her time and get under 25.00, something he said is circled on the board and is a big goal of hers now.
“We’re going to have to clean up the skills of the exit, the finish and just keep on getting stronger in the weight room,” he explained. “And getting more confident in her swimming ability.”
Phillip said the main thing she wanted out of the competition was progress and she accomplished that.
“I’ve progressed at FIU in a very, very short space of time so I just wanted to continue riding that wave and that’s what happened and I’m very happy,” she said. “We found things that I can work on and improve on, so I’m going to continually work on them until they become muscle memory and I can do them in any situation. I want to continue swimming fearlessly in the pool because when I swim fearlessly, I swim faster.”