FOLLOWING in the stride of Olympian Hannibal Gaskin, 17-year old Phillip DeNobrega departed Guyana last Saturday for a one-year International Swimming Federation (FINA) scholarship at the Spire Swimming Academy, Cleveland, Ohio.Speaking with Chronicle Sport, the former Chase Academy student said he was surprised when he learnt that he was accepted for the scholarship. DeNobrega wasn’t confident that his timings were up to scratch.“I was really surprised, I wasn’t sure if I would get it, because they had other countries with other children applying and I wasn’t up to the standards,” DeNobrega related.DeNobrega, who is expected to represent Guyana at a number of meets this year, also has Olympic aspirations and is hopeful of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.DeNobrega’s name was the only one submitted to FINA by the Guyana Amateur Swimming Association (GASA) after a missive was sent out to the various clubs to nominate swimmers for the programme.Introduced in June 2013, the FINA scholarship programme offers the opportunity to obtain financial and technical assistance for one potential elite athlete, selected and proposed by his/her respective National Federation.The programme targets swimmers and national federations with the greatest needs in FINA’s six aquatic sports. FINA’s objective is to provide up to 40 scholarships per year.An athlete can benefit from the scholarship programme for a maximum 12 months for each application.Last year, Gaskin completed a seven-month FINA High Performance Swim Training stint at their centre in Delaware, Ohio, just prior to his performance at the Rio Olympics in August.The result of Gaskin’s training was evident when, despite not placing at the Olympics, he swam a personal best and new national record in the men’s 100m butterfly.Also training overseas is Guyanese swimmer Jamila Sanmoogan, who is currently on a three-year scholarship at the University of Sports in Cali, Colombia.SPIRE Academy, which DeNobrega will be attending, is an international high school and postgraduate academy focused on developing and preparing athletes to be successful in swimming. According to the information on their website, the academy is focused on “placing emphasis on academic, athletic, leadership, and character development”.As swimming in Guyana goes DeNobrega has been a bright prospect over the past few years. He stands as a Goodwill Swim Meet silver medallist, and has also medalled at the tri-nation Inter-Guiana Games. He is currently an option to represent Guyana at the FINA World Championships set for Budapest, Hungary from July 25 to 30.DeNobrega was given a warm send-off at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, as his family and several GASA executives extended good wishes.