Dozens of swimmers living and training in South Florida will head to the London 2012 Olympic Games later this month – competing not for the U.S. but for other countries.
The year-round warm weather makes this region an ideal venue for high-level swimmers from South America to Central America to the Middle East. One swim club in Davie has 17 Olympians from 13 different countries.
Nova Southeastern University has an international Olympian of its own – Esau Simpson, who hails from a tiny island in the Caribbean.
"Being in the water, I feel at home. I feel relaxed. I feel settled,” he said.
Settled is an interesting word choice for a swimmer who sprints in the water, 100 meters as fast as he can against the best in the world. That’s the task at hand for Simpson, who is a sophomore at Nova.
"I love racing. I mean, everyone loves racing,” he said.
Simpson was born in Brooklyn and raised in Grenada, which he will represent at the XXX Olympic Summer Games later this month, as part of a very small aquatics team.
"I'm sad to say, it's only me,” he said.
His home country is growing, but it’s pretty small compared to the other islands, he noted.
"We focus a bit more on our athletics and boxing. We have great track athletes. So having to rise to the occasion and put my name in the books just as they've done, it's kind of intimidating, but it is a challenge nonetheless,” Simpson said.
Nicknamed "The Saw," Simpson raced in the 100-meter freestyle in the Shanghai world championships last year, so the 21-year-old is familiar with the international stage. But even though his college coach will travel with him, nothing quite compares to what he'll experience in London.
"There's always that moment when you step onto the blocks and you're still shaking no matter what,” he said. “I don't care if you are me, a 12-year-old, or Michael Phelps, once you get up to the blocks, you're confident but you're nervous."
Simpson said his goal is to swim a personal best in London. He also hopes to coach swimming in Grenada and grow the sport for the future.
Nova Southeastern swimming coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron said she thinks Simpson is so excited because he’s never been at the Olympic level.
“I would be surprised if he came in with 100 percent confidence. I think he has 99 percent confidence and 1 percent nervousness,” she said.
Said Simpson, “The best of the best of the world go to the Olympics, so I'm just trying to keep a level head, go out there and perform my best, and when the time comes to celebrate and enjoy it, I'll enjoy it."