Florida Gulf Coast Makes Final Push to Qualify for 2016 Olympic Games
By George Nunnelley
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Months after winning their seventh CCSA Championship in a span of eight years, a number of members of the Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU) Swimming and Diving program continue their busy schedules during the offseason as they attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As the Olympic qualification period comes to a close in just over a month, rising sophomores Katie Latham and Fanny Teijonsalo have already achieved an Olympic Selection “B” Time, while former Eagles Lani Cabrera and Karen Vilorio currently sit first and second, respectively, in their country’s FINA World Rankings, and rising senior Evita Leter ranks third.
Following the end of the qualification period that expires July 3, FINA will assess the number of athletes who achieved an Olympic Qualifying “A” Time standard, the number of relay-only swimmers and the number of unqualified athletes before inviting athletes who have achieved a “B” time standard until the total quota of 900 swimmers is reached.
For countries without an Olympic qualifier by time standard, which is currently the case with the home countries of Cabrera and Vilorio, the top point holder would likely get the nod to represent his or her country in Rio. If Cabrera remains in the top spot of her country’s FINA World Rankings and Vilorio works her way up into the top position, they will likely become FGCU’s first Olympic athletes once the list becomes official following the conclusion of the qualification period.
“The girls are working very hard while trying to make their dreams of competing in the Olympics come true,” said FGCU head coach Neal Studd. “At the same time, my staff and I are doing everything we can to help them achieve those dreams. The Olympics is a special occurrence every four years, and this year things are really on track and looking good for us.”
At the European Championships in May, Teijonsalo (Espoo, Finland/Makelanrinteen Lukio) competed on Finland’s 4×100 free relay team that finished fifth in their heat and eighth in the final event as they touched the pads in 3:43.16, which currently has them hovering around the cut line as one of 16 relay teams to compete in the event in Rio. Earlier in the spring, the Finland native also won a trio of events – including the 50 fly, 100 free and 200 IM – at the Mayaguez International Swimming Open and also placed second in the 50 free and third in the 100 fly. She has currently achieved a “B” time in the 50 free (25.77), 100 free (56.00) and 100 fly (1:00.49) and holds the second-fastest times this year among Finnish swimmers in each of the three events.
Latham (Deal, Kent, United Kingdom/Sir Roger Manwood’s School), who competed in the British Swimming Championships in April, clocked a long-course time of 25.90 seconds in the 50 free, which earned her a “B” time standard. Her mark was not only good for the second fastest in her heat and earned her a spot in the final event, but also ranks as the ninth best among British swimmers during the qualifying period.
With the fastest times this year among Barbadian swimmers in the 200 free (2:05.62), 400 free (4:25.53) and 800 free (9:08.02) events, Cabrera (Bridgetown, Barbados/St. Ursula’s Secondary School) ranks as her country’s top point holder in the FINA World Rankings. Like Leter, Teijonsalo and Vilorio, she also competed at the Mayaguez Open and finished in the top-five in each of the aforementioned events.
Additionally, Vilorio (Tegucigalpa, Honduras/Elvel School) ranks second the FINA World Rankings for Honduras after clocking her country’s top times in the 50 back (30.52), 100 back (1:03.94) and 200 back (2:18.19) at the San Juan International Swimming Open. In April, she also traveled to Puerto Rico and finished first in each of the three backstroke events at the Mayaguez Open.
After also swimming her country’s fastest times in the 50 breast (33.38) and 100 breast (1:14.32) and the second-fastest time in the 50 free (27.91), Leter (Paramaribo, Suriname/Doral Academy) ranks third in Suriname’s current FINA World Rankings. She was one of the aforementioned FGCU swimmers who competed at the Mayaguez Open and finished first in the 50 breast and second in the 100 breast.
Later this summer, Cabrera, Leter and Vilorio are scheduled to compete in the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships in Nassau, Bahamas, from June 29-July 2. Additionally, CCSA Swimmer of the Year Elise Haan (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS) continues to prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., from June 26-July 3.
Florida Swim Network