Under a month to go now until the Games begin. Coaches and athletes relentless in their training and preparation. Gibraltar’s swimming squad was announced recently, they’re in the pool no fewer than six days a week under the watchful eye of Head Coach Joe Santos – an old school, tough character who demands maximum input.
A former swimmer himself who dominated the scene during the 70’s and 80’s, Joe’s passion and knowledge for the sport has rubbed off on countless people over the years, and one man in particular – 31-year-old Colin Bensadon.
“Colin is of a different breed – he’s been at the top for about 17 years, I don’t think we’ll produce anyone else like him… not in my lifetime.”
Whether it’s work, fatherhood or swimming, it’s never anything short of 100% from Colin, arguably Gibraltar’s greatest ever swimmer, he holds countless national records from an (amateur) career spanning two decades.
Colin brings a wealth of experience, which will be vital for this relatively young squad. Some of the swimmers, such as Christina Linares and Matt Savitz are studying at University, there’s a handful – a very talented one at that – who are still in school such as Katie Tunbridge and Zack Kaemmerlen.
Jordan Gonzalez is one to look out for, 25 years old and at his peak. Despite not medalling, he burst on to the scene two years ago in Gotland, smashing a number of national records. He’s Gibraltar’s golden boy in the pool and the public will be hoping he can achieve a place on the podium this summer.
The Swimming competition will take place in the new state-of-the-art Lathbury sports facility which – when complete – will boast a 52m Olympic standard pool. That’s a far cry given the humble beginnings from which it all began. For decades the majority of the association’s activities were carried out in the surrounding sea.
Gibraltar last hosted the Games in 1995 and in order to host a swimming event, the Government commissioned an indoor, six-lane, 25m pool. This building has been GASA’s home and headquarters for the last 22 years and a place where hundreds of swimmers of all ages and abilities have come to practice the sport they love.
With this new chapter on the horizon, Gibraltar prepares to host 24 islands, all of which will be competing in the Swimming. The Isle of Man has always produced very good swimmers, they’re amongst the favourites. As are the Faroe Islands and look no further than Pál Joensen, now a coach but a former European Champion at junior and senior level. He swam for Denmark at the London 2012 Olympics.
So no shortage of competition for Team Gibraltar, but nonetheless head coach Joe Santos has full faith in his squad. He’s confident the home support will give his swimmers the edge when it really matters. National and personal records are almost certainly going to be achieved… but how about medals?
“It could happen…”