Port Antonio in Jamaica is the site of the training camp for a group of girls who have a dream: to compete as synchronized swimmers in the Olympics. A feature in the New York Times notes that synchronized swimming has never really been popular as a sport in the island nation, and while it has been a specialty event at the Olympics for over 30 years, it remains less established than other water sports like diving and swimming. Impressively, Jamaica, a small country, has won 78 Olympic medals, but it has never sent a synchronized swimming team to the games. This could change if this group of girls has their way.
The idea was prompted by Russian two-time Olympic gold medalist in the sport Olga Novokshchenova. She began teaching from her home in Port Antonio, starting with a single student. She now coaches five athletes: Ajoni Llewellyn, 17; Katana Blount, 10; Joydayne Whyte, 9; Laila Bailey, 12; and Nyouka Baugh, 15. The swimmers train four days a week and have named themselves the Island Aquatics Synchro Club, the only club for the sport in Jamaica. Swimmer Joydayne Whyte was just three years old when she knew she wanted to be part of a synchronized swim team as she watched teams perform at the Olympics. Joydayne, who is in the fourth grade, has been a student of Novokshchenova for two years and qualified for the national team in 2017, representing Jamaica at the Central American and Caribbean Championships. One of the team’s major obstacles is attracting and keeping new members. They had planned to qualify for the duets category at the 2020 Summer Olympics, but needed at least another two members in the same age range. In 2017, the team went to Orlando, Florida, and competed in a junior Olympic championship where they placed highly in several categories.