[private]Maeform Borriello, 13, took up swimming in Italy seven years ago because she was homesick for her native Roatan. At press time she was representing Honduras at the World Junior Championships in Dubai, the youngest of eight members of the Honduran national team.
Maeform moved to Italy at the age of five with her mother, Lidia Barrow, a Tela native who grew up on Roatan. For the first five months, she wanted nothing more than to go back home.
“I didn’t like it,” she said. “Here you’re more free. Over there you have to stick to rules.” It was also too cold for her taste.
Maeform’s father, Gaetano Borriello, who operates the Las Rocas resort in West Bay, said Maeform would sometimes get up in the middle of class at school and walk out and didn’t even want to hold hands to cross the street. “She didn’t want any rules,” he said.
She also asked to go to the beach every day after school.
“We had to go to the beach and she had to go stay in the sand. She had to go a little bit in the water, even in December,” said Gaetano. “It was very cold,” Maeform remembers. But it reminded her of home.
Then one day Gaetano said he saw a sign for a swimming pool and asked Maeform if she would like to go there.
“That was better than going to the ocean,” he thought.
She started going to the pool regularly, and soon she was noticed by a coach.
“I started competing one year after,” she said. “I liked it.”
She also started doing better in school and adjusting better to life in Italy. “You get used to it,” she says now, but “it’s still too cold.”
Maeform now trains three hours a day, six days a week in Italy. When on Roatan, she swims in the ocean in front of Las Rocas or in the pool at the Henry Morgan resort, although she admits her training regimen here is somewhat less rigorous (she was eating nachos with friends on the balcony behind Las Rocas when we came to interview her).
Last year Maeform was picked to swim for Aurelia, one of the premier Italian national swim teams, based in Rome. She goes to Rome, about 90 minutes by train from her home, to train about three times a week when school is not in session.
Maeform ranked seventh in her age group last year in Italy in the 50-meter freestyle. She also won three bronze and three silver medals swimming for Delfines Sampedranos at the 2012 Honduran national swimming championships. This year she moved up in age group but still managed to win two golds, four silver and two bronze at the Honduran nationals in August. Meanwhile, her times recorded in Italy qualified her to compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke at the World Championships, where she would have to compete against swimmers as old as 17.
Despite her eight years in Italy and ascendance on the international swimming circuit, Maeform remains an island girl at her core. What she likes to do most when back visiting Roatan, other than spend time with her early childhood friends, is eat baleadas. “I miss them,” she said.
Maeform also brings Italian friends with her when she comes back to Roatan. Last year she brought four members of her swim team, in addition to her best friend.
“They wanted to come back this year,” she said, “but they couldn’t.” Instead she invited another school friend, Mario. Her Italian trainer, Giuseppe Simione, made the trip to San Pedro Sula to watch her compete at the Honduran nationals and consult with the coach of the Honduran national team, who was to accompany Maeform and the rest of the team to Dubai for the World Championships.
Maeform’s father said her Italian coach sometimes complained that Maeform’s Caribbean nature and disdain for rules made her hard to coach. But he said, “That’s her spirit … she’s not going to swim like a German.”[/private]
He said Maeform, for her part, saw as her role model Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt – eccentric, marches to his own beat … “but he’s the best.”