These girls are determined to be Olympic swimmers on Jamaica’s first ever synchronized swim team. 17-year-old Ajoni Llewellyn and 12-year-old Laila Baily are part of the Island Aquatics Synchro Club. The girls practice in their coach’s backyard pool, because there isn’t another option in their small town.
Coach Olga Novokshenova stated, “Because in Jamaica, especially here in Port Antonio in a small town, most of the people cannot swim, although they live on an island by the sea.”
Novokshenova has two Olympic gold medals under her belt, from her time as a synchronized swimmer in Russia. When she moved to Jamaica, she began teaching swim in whatever small pools she could find.
“Two years ago, I lost my patience. So, I went back to Moscow and I sold one of my apartments and I just used the money to build a pool.”
Now, she’s formed a synchronized swim team of five girls making waves on the international stage. The team went from last place in a 2013 competition, to winning bronze and silver medals in 2017.
Now, they have their eyes set on the Olympics — but the girls say it’s about more than winning. Swimming is also a comfort and great support.