There’s always a record to chase - even if it’s your own
Stars and Stripes February 10, 2024
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands – Emma Heaphy takes pleasure in the chase.
Because the 9-year-old Kaiserslautern Kingfish generally is well ahead of the competitors in her age group, though, she has to get creative to create that pursuit. Heaphy sometimes squares off with those outside her age.
That’s how Heaphy broke the 50-meter breaststroke record during the fall.
Saturday at the Pieter van den Hoogenband Zwemstadion at the Nationaal Zwemcentrum de Tongelreep in Eindhoven, Netherlands, though, the swimmer had to chase after someone else: herself. And Heaphy managed the feat, shattering her previous high mark in the event by almost 2.5 seconds with a 42.60.
“I like chasing people, it’s really fun for me,” Heaphy said. “I like dropping time. That’s how I beat records, chase big boys.”
One of those “big boys” is, in fact, a girl.
Former Brunssum Orca Hylcke de Beer doesn’t swim in the league anymore, but before moving onto Dutch clubs and becoming a Dutch junior national swimmer, she set numerous records. She posted a 45.10 in the 50 breaststroke mark for 9-year-old girls at the 2016 short-distance championships, which held until Heaphy jumped into the pool.
In attendance Saturday at the European Forces Swim League Short-Distance Championships, de Beer, 17 herself now, said the new record was earned.
“I see all these little girls, and if they want to try and live up to you, that’s really cool,” de Beer said. “She really deserves to have it. It’s nice to give it to someone who deserves it.”
It’s not Heaphy’s first European record. Considering her track record, it doesn’t seem farfetched to say it won’t be her last.
Even if she gets far ahead like she did in the 50 breaststroke, winning by almost 8 seconds over teammate Addy Pierre-Louis, Heaphy said she won’t let it stop her from treading faster.
“I just keep on going,” she said.
The AAAA, or “quad-A,” is the top ranking an athlete can receive from USA Swimming.
It means the swimmer posted a time that’s in the top 2 percent of athletes in his/her age group. Basically, the elite of the elite.
Kaiserslautern’s Jacob Furqueron can add his name to that echelon. The 13-year-old posted a time of 4 minutes, 27.76 seconds in the 400 freestyle, beating the USA Swimming cutoff of 4:30.69.
“I always want to go for the quad-A because it’s cool,” Furqueron said. “Hitting it at this big of a meet with everybody watching and knowing that these times are going to USA Swimming, it’s nice.”
The Kingfish wasn’t the only swimmer Saturday to try to earn that distinction. Both Jake Jennings, competing unattached from Bahrain, and Kaiserslautern’s Grace Cooper pushed in the 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, respectively. Jennings came up almost 3 seconds short at 4:24.69, while Cooper was 2.75 seconds away at 1:16.85.
Furqueron said his and others’ times show a step in the right direction – and that bodes well for Sunday.
“I’m confident,” Furqueron said heading into the second day. “I’m happy for the other swimmers because it seems like they’re dropping a lot, too.”
Paris enters new waters
When Chase Charnoubi and his family moved from northern Virginia to Paris in August 2023, he found a local team with which to swim.
Still, he wanted something that felt closer to home, perhaps a chance to compete with fellow Americans. That’s when he noticed some of his classmates had joined the Paris Swim Club, nicknamed the “Eau-lympians.”
“I was excited I got a team in Paris,” Charnoubi said. “I was on a different team that was French. Then I saw some of my classmates, and I thought, ‘Yay!’”
Charnoubi and the Eau-lympians made their first appearance at the short-distance championships on Saturday. And they didn’t come away empty handed.
In the 10-year-old boys 100 butterfly, Charnoubi took gold with a time of 39.40 seconds. He defeated Stuttgart’s Brennan Andrious by 3 seconds.
The victory didn’t shock Paris president Adam Leigland. Charnoubi was one of four Eau-lypians – Emilia Charnoubi (8-year-old girls), Cadence Sell (10-year-old girls) and Alessandra Mura (12-year-old girls) being the others – to earn all-star honors, meaning they were in the top six overall.
“Super excited, but not surprised,” Leigland said of Charnoubi’s victory. “He’s been performing well all season.”
It was a positive sign for a club that entered the league just this season.
Leigland and his wife started the club after spending four years at Rota and three years at Sigonella. They wanted to stay connected with the camaraderie of the EFSL while seeing the demand from families connected to the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
After getting off the ground, the Eau-lypians ended up with 35 competitors on the roster.
“It was easier in some ways than we expected,” Leigland said. “I think I can attribute to that to the league was very supportive, the league wanted to see growth and the league wanted to have a team in a place like Paris.”
Now, the Paris Swim Club will focus on making sure the team isn’t a one-year wonder.
With athletes such as the Charnoubis, odds are the Eau-lympians could be here to stay.
“This year was can we make it work,” Leigland said. “Our second season is going to be about longevity. Our goal is to turn it into something that’s self-sustaining.”