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Isamilo Invitational Gala 2019

Even by midday on Thursday the 28th of February, 2019, teams had already started arriving in Mwanza—that Western Tanzanian city that boasts the status of second city, sits on the shores of Lake Victoria, and contains the Isamilo International School, Mwanza (IISM), which is the beautiful venue for the well-regarded annual swimming event known as the Isamilo Invitational Gala. By the evening of that same Thursday, 8 teams were already on their way to Mwanza, which sits at an elevation of 1150m; meanwhile, the host team had already swam their last practice early Thursday morning before school. In that pre-dawn darkness—shattered by the spotlights at 6:26am—the swimmers of Mwanza Swim Club (MSC) were used to the air being cold and discouraging while the water is always warm and welcoming. It was no different on that morning. They doffed the nerves they were feeling as they stretched, quietly contemplating the events they would swim in the following two days. They then slipped quietly into the water to drown their fears in 3 kilometres measured out in 25m lengths.

As 12:30pm neared and the student-athletes began to yearn for the smell of chlorine in their nostrils, the bell signalling the end to their shortened day finally rang out. They quickly made their way to the pool to begin warm-up and to welcome all the friends they have made through swimming competitions and years of mutual admiration and respect. 128 swimmers from TalissIST, Morogoro, FK Blue Marlins, Bluefins, Geita Gold International School, International School of Moshi, and of course Mwanza International School all padded back and forth on the pool deck mingling with the 76 swimmers from IISM and MSC.

At 2pm exactly the competition began. In event 1 of any gala it is always difficult to see clearly the path that will navigate you through to the end…in this case, through to event 124; and yet, every time, eventually all the swimmers, officials, judges, coaches, spectators and managers begin to see how to navigate through the waters of each event to the goal. The way somehow becomes clear.

On the way, we all cheered for and were inspired by a 3 year old swimmer whom we were slightly afraid might not make it across the pool…and yet when she does, there is such an eruption of spontaneous applause and celebration that we all have to take a moment to regain our composure. Some might have even wiped away the stray, traitorous tear. Baffled, we gaze on as the best flyers and breaststrokers float through the water and air with such speed and grace and determination we ourselves seem to fall into silent prayer with eyes wide open.

We watch a 10-year old swim in the 800 metre Free as well as several gentlemen who have come late to swimming, and realise that maybe swimming really is for everybody—that maybe the pool Isamilo will find new swimmers in the weeks after the gala is over who were inspired by what they saw here on the weekend of March 1 and 2, 2019. In the end, MSC swimmers walked away with a 1st place showing, with Bluefins coming in 2nd and Taliss-IST placing 3rd. As well, MSC swimmers garnered 54 gold, 33 silver, and 36 bronze medals—nearly 1 out of every 3 medals on offer over the weekend. MSC also set 13 new Gala records.

Most importantly, though, MSC had 223 personal best times in the gala. Congrats all you improving swimmers out there.

Mrs. Weston, the Head of Secondary, summed it up perfectly: “[The Isamilo Invitational] raises IISM to a National level and reflects our standard as well as showcasing our fabulous community, from student and parent volunteers on through to our staff and swimmers.”

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