Two Caribbean sailors traveled to Singapore in December to attend the first Singapore 2010 Friendship Camp. The British Virgin Islands' DonTae Hodge and U.S. Virgin Islands' Nikki Barnes took part in the five-day camp along with over 400 other 15- to 17-year old athletes representing 130 countries.
The camp, which was organized by Singapore's Ministry of Education in partnership with the Singapore Sports School and the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee, was one of the special events leading up to the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games to be held August 14 to 26.
"What I liked best about the camp was meeting new friends and becoming so close with people from all parts of the world," said Hodge, who has traveled extensively to compete in sailing events such as the Laser Mid-Winters in Florida and Optimist North American Championships in Mexico and Curacao. "There were no race problems. Everyone was treated the same and we became so close that it was hard to leave each other at the end of the camp."
During the camp, the teens took part in a variety of activities such Cultural Night celebrations and chats with Olympic medal-winning athletes from Jamaica and Australia as well as trying on a new sport, team building games and a trip to Adventure Island which included rock climbing.
Barnes, who has traveled to the U.S., South America, Mexico and Europe to compete in Optimists and I-420s, said, "We learned to never give up from (Australian) Olympic swimmer Michael Klim. He told us to just keep going even when it was hard. Training is tough and hard, he said, but at the end of the day it works out and pays off. Then (Jamaican sprinter) Asafa Powell told us to never go for second place, always first."
Hodge and Barnes didn't get to sail, although they did try out sports such as golf and fencing, respectively, and hands-on activities like dragon boating.
"I must admit golf was very challenging," said Hodge. "Being involved in sailing where there is no ball involved, it was a little difficult at first, but I eventually got the hang of it."
Dragon boats, said Barnes, "are long narrow canoes. There are two people on either side and everybody rows with a one-sided paddle. You have to paddle at the same rhythm and beat as the driver on the bow in order to go fast."
The International Dragon Boat Federation (ICBF) will petition to become an official Olympic Federation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when it reaches 75 member countries and territories. Currently, 60 countries and territories are part of the IDBF.
Fellow Caribbean junior sailors shouldn't fear traveling half way around the world, said both Hodge and Barnes.
"Just think about the fun you're going to have, the awesome experience and the chance to meet many cool people and you're feel better about the whole trip," said Hodge.
Barnes added, "Don't think about how far away from home you are. Just live in the moment and make as many friends as you can. The memories you come home with will be way greater than any fears."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.