Nikoli Blackman opened Trinidad and Tobago’s medal count at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games as he splashed to a golden finish in the men’s 200m freestyle at the National Aquatic Centre in Balmain, Couva, on Sunday.
In the final, Blackman, 18, had a powerful start and led all swimmers over three of the four 50m legs to clock a well executed and event-winning one minute and 49.94 seconds (1:49.94).
When Blackman’s head penetrated the surface seconds after the eight swimmers leapt out of the blocks, his white swim cap with the TT flag was visibly ahead of the rest.
The early advantage sent the venue into a frenzy as TT’s fans roared him on from the stands.
Blackman, who represents Marlins domestically, dominated and covered the first 50m in 25.09s. He completed the second 50m in 53.30s and the third in 1:22.05 before splashing home to gold.
Blackman’s rival from Cayman Islands James Allison earned silver in 1:50.97 and Australian Harvey Larke bagged bronze in 1:51.64.
In the earlier heats, Blackman swam in heat five of five and clocked the second fastest time, in 1:52.35. Winning the heat was Kiwi Kevin Zhang in 1:52.11.
The victory for TT saw them capture their first medal of the games’ seventh edition.
After the race, Blackman was elated to have a positive start and hoped his performance inspires his teammates to excel.
“It’s amazing. I really hope that the other athletes can feel a stronger sense of wanting to win even more now, and bring home more medals for the country.”
Blackman said from the get-go, he could hear the crowd cheering him on, and it helped bolster his performance.
“It was great, because the last two 50m distances, I was getting tired, but the chants really helped me home for TT.”
When asked what went right for him in the race, he said, “Just mental preparation, proper rest between the morning and afternoon session and just working on the fundamentals.”
Blackman is not satisfied and wants more after the opening victory.
“I’m a bit more comfortable now that I’ve medalled. The mentality going forward is to bring home more gold.”
TT swim coach Sharntelle McLean said Blackman held back his true potential in the heats and kept his best for the final.
“We knew from this morning how he swam, he held back some. He knew some of his competitors, knew how to strategise and definitely picked up the pace on each 50m he did from this morning. The plan was to come home strong. He took charge of the race and it sets the tone for the next races,” McLean told the media.
Blackman lines up once more on Monday in the opening rounds of 50m freestyle qualifying. He begins the 100m free qualifiers on Tuesday.
Compatriot Zarek Wilson placed 8th in the men’s 50m butterfly final in 25.01s. Winning gold was Scotland’s Dean Fearn (24.43s) while England’s Nick Finch (24.46s) and Fiji’s David Young (24.48s) took second and third.
In the earlier heats, Wilson contested heat four of five and touched the wall fastest of the eight swimmers, in 24.88s.
He returns to the pool no Monday for the 100m butterfly heats and will also compete in the 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle.
This story was originally published with the title “Nikoli Blackman wins gold for Team TTO at Commonwealth Youth Games” and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
SWIMMER Nikoli Blackman won Trinidad and Tobago’s first medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games on Sunday, at the National Aquatic Centre, Couva. Blackman, 18, took the gold amid the roar of home fans in the men’s 200m freestyle final, in one minute, 49.94 seconds.
Blackman was in control for the majority of the race as the athletes made four laps of the pool. On the final lap, despite a challenge from Cayman Islands’ James Allison, Blackman had enough in his tank to pull away.
Allison had to settle for silver in 1:50.97, followed by Australian Harvey Larke who touched the wall in 1:51.64.