Swimming prodigy eyes more record-breaking performances for Guyana

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By Akeem Greene

At 15, Aleka Persaud shattered her own National Record of 28.10 seconds in the Women’s 50m Freestyle when she registered 27.76s at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The spirited effort placed her second in her Heat, but it was not quick enough for one of 16 places in the semi-finals.

Back in Guyana after her historic performance, Persaud and her coach Sean Baksh held at media briefing on Wednesday at Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, Georgetown, where he she revealed the honour of representing the Golden Arrowhead at the global showpiece.

“It was an honour to represent my country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. I have been swimming since the age of three and competing from the age of five,” Guyana’s youngest-ever Olympian expressed.

Overall, Persaud’s time in the qualifying rounds was ranked 55 out of 81 swimmers.

“My dream was always to represent Guyana at the Olympic Games. It was very challenging training for the games during the COVID-19 pandemic because the Olympic Swimming Pool at Liliendaal was closed to the public. My parents, Holly and Ivan Persaud, were forced to frequently drive me to the Blue Lake in Linden to train, while my father and coach Sean Baksh were constantly on the lookout for vacant pools,” she revealed.

Guyanese Aleka Persaud is all smiles after her performance at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Persaud, who broke senior national records at her first outing at Junior CARIFTA Championships in Barbados in 2019, said she was not nervous ahead of debut Olympic swim since she “did the work”, which has resulted in her securing a spot for the Junior Pan-American Games to be held in Colombia from November 25 to December 5.

Aleka Persaud’s coach, Sean Baksh

Persaud holds the long course National Records in the 100m Butterfly (01:08.52s) and 200m Medley (02:42.42s), all accomplished when she was just 13-years-old in Barbados.

Additionally, with the next Olympic Games just three years away in Paris, Baksh reiterated that for Persaud to steadily improve and gain an automatic qualifying time, which for this Olympics was 24.77s, there must be considerable investment to give her the necessary high-performance training, noting they have a plan.

“We were not preparing for the Olympics because she would have been too young in 2020, and the pandemic happened and we continued to train [land training mainly], we got some pool time and then we got the opportunity to go the Olympics”.

“My expectation is that she will swim much faster at Junior Pan-Am,” Baksh indicated as he confirmed Persaud will look to break records again in the 100m Freestyle and 100m Butterfly.

Baksh said they are preparing a budget for a high-level training camp overseas for Persaud and stated while it is “costly”, it must be done for Persaud and other athletes in Guyana.

“If we don’t do these things, we will not progress to the higher levels…we have the talent, it is there [but] we need to put some effort behind it so it can bear fruit down the road,” Baksh remarked.

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