Mark Emmanus is something of a water baby. Or a dare devil depending on how you look at it. His mom Catherine recalled an incident on a family vacation when Mark was just three.
“We were on holiday here at the Hummingbird and he just walked and jumped in the deep end of the pool. Everyone panicked and we pulled him out. And he got out and went straight back in again. So my husband said that’s it. He’s got to learn how to swim.”
Originally from the UK, Emmanus moved to St Lucia in 2008 at the age of seven, after his parents made good on a promise to settle on the island when they were a bit older in order to remain closer to relatives. He joined the Southern Flying Fish Swim Club and found success almost immediately when he participated as a wildcard in a nearby meet.
“It was an open water event in Laborie actually. I got gold in that. It was a hundred meter sprint from one buoy to another. I think there were sixteen of us in the water. It was really good to be honest.”
The victory was just the motivation he needed.
“From winning that and then you have all your idols that you look at in swimming, you actually aspire to be like them and now that you’ve got a winning streak, that taste of victory, you want to be better and progress on to be like them.”
Emmanus started training rigorously, determined to make the national team and catch up to one of his swim colleagues.
“At that point I was always second to Jyasi Daniel and that was what motivated me even more to be better. He got on the national team first and the next time I got on. And we were first and second always in every single competition we went to.”
The swimmer has had tremendous success in his short career, already competing in several local and regional meets.
“For eight years i’ve been doing the OECS. Just recently i’ve been to Jamaica for the Carifta Games. I went to Costa Rica for the Central America and Caribbean Games. And a lot of regional meets, club based, like in Trinidad and Barbados.”
Being based in the south does pose a few challenges for Emmanus, the biggest of which is the lack of swimming facilities in the area.
“He only gets six hours of swim time at Coconut Bay a week,” says him mom. “We don’t have a pool in the south. We rely on Coconut Bay’s kindness really so that he can swim. He does very well for the assets he can use.”
Emmanus would like to make the Olympic team for St Lucia. He would be the first person from the south to ever do so, against all the odds facing him right now. He has already been nominated for the Youth Olympic Games slated for Nanjing, China next year. But the fifteen-year-old student form 5 at Vieux-Fort Comprehensive Campus B, knows he has a lot more work to do and is prepared to go the distance.
“I am actually thinking of moving up to Sir Arthur to probably do more in Electrical Technology and things like that, which would give me a chance to train with Jamie Peterkin in the afternoon so that will probably bring me up to a greater level in swimming. And after that try to pursue a scholarship.”
He also has another interest that he is interested in exploring. Might we see him on a future GQ cover?
“Maybe a little bit of modelling. To be in the modelling industry would be quite nice. When I was young I did a little bit now and then. It wasn’t all that,” he laughs. “But it was something.”
And what does he do for fun when he comes up for air?
“I used to play football but stopped because of my commitment to swimming. It was taking up all my time so I had to make time for work and swimming. There was no time for any other sport. I play games all the time, playstation and stuff like that. Sports type games.”
However, there is little time for play as Emmanus is ready to push himself to the limits to achieve what his predecessors have.
“On a local basis Jamie is one of my idols as well as Jordan Augier. Internationally I would say Mark Spitz is one of them and Michael Phelps.”
Look out for him to be making his own mark on the world stage. And maybe even on the cover of your favourite fashion mag.