By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Elinah Phillip would be the first to tell you she’s come a long, long way since her father Elsworth took her and her sister Amarah swimming on Long Bay Beach, Beef Island, that would lead to a career in the sport.
Her first competition was as in the OECS Swimming Championships 9-10 Age Group in January 2011, after a Hurricane moved the championships from November 2011, in St. Lucia.
From there, she has gone on to becoming the territory’s most prolific Carifta Games individual medalist in any sport; the first BVI Swimming Federation athlete in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, CAC Games, the FINA World Championships, FINA World Cup and last week, the Youth Olympic Games, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she ended her Junior career.
“It all happened very quickly,” Phillip reflected on Sunday after her Youth Olympic Games 50m freestyle semifinal swim. “I didn’t know where I was going with it to be honest, I kept going and going, doing what I enjoyed. It was fast paced, but, I learned a lot along the way.”
Phillip who attended the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China with Amarah but wasn’t old enough to compete, said she enjoyed every moment of the games in Argentina among her peers, especially the village atmosphere and making lots of friends as she walked around.
“I had a good understanding of how the system worked, so it wasn’t too hard for me to get settled in and into all the activities going on around the Youth Olympic Games Village,” noted the 18-year old who competed in two events. “I was familiar with how it all worked since it was similar to China.”
Her first action was in the 50m Butterfly, which she said was a strong swim for her, but she didn’t swim as fast as she’d like, after recording a non-advancing time of 28.65 seconds.
“After that, I had to learn from it, then I had the 50m Freestyle a couple days later, swam a lot better and made the semifinals,” she noted after stopping the clock at 26.22 seconds, then recorded 26.56 in her semis. “I didn’t swim as fast as I wanted to, (in the semis) but, at the end of the day, I was proud of what I did.”
Phillip later found out that she was the only Caribbean female advancing to the semifinals and her time ranked her at No 15/55 competitors.
“It meant a lot to me and it made me very proud,” she said. “I hope I inspired a lot of the younger generation, because I know there are youngsters from the Caribbean here who won’t have another Youth Olympic Games because of the age restrictions, but I hope I inspired as many people as possible.”
Prior to the Youth Olympic Games, Phillip competed in the FINA World Cup. The difference between that competition and the YOG, is that the World Cup used a short course, 25m pool and YOG the long course or 50m pool.
“The times from the World Cup would be faster, because you have more turns, which makes the swim faster, which would make the time difference,” she noted.
As she now points towards senior competition, Phillip in reflecting on her Junior career, said she enjoyed meets like the Carifta Games where she became the territory’s All Time medal winner with her haul of 10 medals in April. She also enjoyed the Commonwealth Games and the FINA World Cup.
“I learnt about mental toughness and a lot about myself and handling different situations,” she said as she turns her attention to senior competition. “From now going forward, I plan to implement everything I’ve learned about myself.”
What would be her advice to younger swimmers seeking to emulate her?
“I would say make sure you enjoy it, because you can always be successful doing something you enjoy and it’s always a lot easier and it makes you happy at the end of the day.”
Phillip who returned to face exams in England, will become the territory’s first collegiate swimmer attending university in the USA next year. She will specialize in the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly, but is open to swimming other events once the opportunity presents itself.