Barbados: Zachary Burke wins 9 gold medals, 1 bronze in Aquatic Swimming Championships

Zachary Burke of Barbados earned the highest amount of individual points from nine gold medals and one bronze in the male division at the just concluded Aquatic Centre Invitational Swimming Championships, which was held at the Wildey Aquatic Centre.

Barbados: Zachary Burke wins 9 gold medals, 1 bronze in Aquatic Swimming Championships
Barbados: Zachary Burke wins 9 gold medals, 1 bronze in Aquatic Swimming Championships

Barbados: Zachary Burke of Barbados earned the highest amount of individual points from nine gold medals and one bronze in the male division at the just concluded Aquatic Centre Invitational Swimming Championships, which was held at the Wildey Aquatic Centre.

Burke, who swims under the banner of Dolphins Swim Club, also won the 11-12 age group championship, and he set a record in the 50m backstroke and the 50m freestyle. Two weeks earlier, at the 2023 CARIFTA Games, which were held in Curacao, Burke won four silver and two bronze medals and placed second in his age group for males. Earlier in the year, he won eleven gold and one silver medal at the BASA Long Course Nationals, where he was the ‘Most Outstanding Junior Male Swimmer’ and the champion in his age group.

It has been a remarkable year in swimming thus far for the Harrison College student who improved on his 2022 performances that included medals at the region’s advanced swim meets, CARIFTA Games and CCCAN. He won a silver and bronze medal at CARIFTA and two silver and two bronze medals at CCCAN. In addition, he won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the PanAm Aquatics Swimming Championships and four silver and 3 bronze at the ASATT Invitational Swimming Championships in Trinidad.

Locally, Burke won two silver medals at the BASA Long Course Nationals and at the Short Course Nationals. Later, in 2022, he won 8 silver and 1 bronze medal. He made his presence known at the 2022 Aquatic Centre Invitational when he claimed 7 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals to walk away with the 11 -12 age group championship. At the Dolphins Swim Club Annual Bridging the Gap Swimming Championships held here, he swam to victory in 5 races while placing second in two events and third in three races.

It might be difficult to believe that this outstanding young swimmer cried tears when at the age of two, his parents took him to ‘Learn To Swim’ and he was not keen about the water or the sand and just the sight of his beach pants would make him burst into the chorus, “I don’t want to go to the beach.”

However, after many tear-filled Saturday mornings, the coach made him swim to shore from a boat docked in open water. He cried as he swam ashore, but after that morning, there was no turning back for Zach.

He was later enrolled in the ‘Water Awareness Program’ at The People’s Cathedral Primary School before joining Harold Lewis, head coach of the Dolphin’s Swim Club, who was responsible for nurturing his development and growth as a swimmer.

Zachary started to compete in swimming at the age of six, first at the Primary Schools Swimming Meets in 2017, 2018 and 2019, when he represented the People’s Cathedral Primary School. He also competed in the Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT) Invitational Swimming Championship in 2018, the ASATT/ Marlins International Invitational in 2019 and at the 25th Goodwill Swim Meet in 2019 where he won a bronze and two silver medals.

In 2019 he won the BASA ‘Certificate of Outstanding Achievement Award’, and he set a new National and Age Group Record in the eight & under boys 100m Breaststroke at the BASA Long Course Nationals. At the August 2021 National Long Course Swimming Championships, competing in the 9-10 division, Zach won six gold medals and one bronze later in December, swimming in the same division at the National Short Course Swimming Championships, he won ten gold and two silver medals and set new records in four events. This performance earned him the award for the “Most Outstanding Junior Male Swimmer.’

Despite a hectic training schedule that begins some weekdays around 5.15am, Zach was able to enjoy other activities at primary school, including chess, football, track and field and the band (flute). He represented his school at NAPSAC and in football, and he was the school’s ‘Male Sports Personality’ in 2018 and 2019 and ‘Outstanding Junior Footballer’ in 2019.

Since entering Harrison College, after doing his Common Entrance Exam when he received a perfect score in Mathematics, Zach was a member of the ‘Kolij’ Track & Field team at BSSAC, he was the Victor Ludorum at the school’s swimming sports and he won his age group title at the Secondary school swimming championships.

Besides sports, Zach plays an important role in the Communications ministry at the Kingdom Empowerment New Testament Church of God, where he is largely responsible for the live streaming of services.

The talented pre-teen has been engaging other swimmers and doing his research about training and academic opportunities as he aspires to live and train overseas and further represent his country in swimming.

Yet, Zach is the regular boy, who scrolls on his cell phone, and likes going to the beach, going to movies, hanging out and playing basketball with his friends, but nothing comes before his commitment to his activities and academics and for those, he makes the necessary sacrifices.

Zach is fully supported by his parents, who understand the rigours of the student-athlete life, as mum is currently studying and dad travels frequently, they have organized a support group that helps with drop-offs and pick-ups from training and activities for Zach and his sister Zoe. The group includes Granny, a.k.a “Mum”, Uncle Kirk and neighbours, and they are all appreciated.