Former South African triathlete trains swimmers in Grenada!

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Mandy Dean helping to create champs

(Herald Live) Waking up to clear blue water, waterfalls and rain forests is partly how a former Springbok triathlete and Port Elizabeth resident describes her days as a swimming coach to underprivileged children in the West Indies.

Mandy Dean, who attended St Dominic’s Priory and the Hill College, embarked on a sailing mission in the Caribbean with a friend almost two years ago, and landed a job at a non-profit organisation – Grenada Youth Adventures.

“I arrived on the spice island of Grenada by chance. I came to help a friend look after a luxury catamaran and as I drove around the island I noticed that very few local people swam in the beautiful warm, calm ocean.”

She asked around and found out about a woman, Deb Eastwood, who taught locals how to swim.

Eastwood was in the US at the time, but Dean managed to phone her there.

“She said she’d been praying for me, and that she needed help urgently.

“I got to the pool the next day and started coaching, and here I am still a year and a bit later,” Dean said.

The pair had started a competitive swimming club, called Sailfish, and had gone on to have nine children qualify to represent Grenada at a national swimming competition in St Lucia this month.

Eastwood, through her non-profit organisation, sponsored a third of the members of the swimming club, while the rest paid an affordable fee.

“I always loved swimming and being in the water. It was my safe space, and a place where I could feel at peace while growing up,” Dean said.

“I coached in PE for many years and when I left SA I thought I’d never coach again, but some things are hard to walk away from.

“I am passionate about swimming and about inspiring kids to be champions.”

Dean said her and Eastwood’s goal was to teach about 8 000 kids how to swim, and train some of them to become Olympic contenders.

“They were a scraggly bunch of kids when I met them a yearand-a-half ago, but now they are a bunch of real swimmers,” she says of the children at the club.

“What I love about our club is that because it’s non-profit I get to teach lots of locals that can’t afford the elitist sport.

“These kids here are talented athletes and with good training I am sure I can create some Olympic swimmers for the future.”

Dean said while she often missed home, she would stretch her stay for another few years. “I am well accepted as a local here, with my dreadlocks and my laid-back attitude.

“I miss my home, family, friends and dog in PE, and Sardinia Bay is still my best beach on the planet, but for the time being I will stay in this tropical paradise and enjoy it.”

Dean set up a website, called Swim coaches without Borders, to complement her passion of teaching swimming.

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