University of Victoria Vikes men’s swimmer Eric Hedlin finished 14th in the men’s 5-kilometre open water, the first swimming event of the FINA World Championships in Hungary.
Hedlin, of Victoria, was between 6th and 26th place throughout the race, finishing in 54 minutes, 56.9 seconds. The race saw 62 swimmers competing from 40 different countries.
“I wanted to start out a little higher position. My shoulders really tightened up and I felt really stiff early on. After the first lap I felt more relaxed and started passing people,” said the 24-year-old.
“I got boxed in a little bit on most of the second lap, because I didn’t start with a good position. I could have come top seven if my positioning had been better.”
Hedlin was the 2016-17 UVic Male Athlete of the Year after winning gold in the 400- and 1500-m freestyle (indoor) events at the Canada West championships before outdoing himself at the U SPORT Championships in March, breaking three-time Olympian Ryan Cochrane’s school record in the 400-metre freestyle on his way to gold before smashing a 1500-metre freestyle record from 1992 on the final day to earn his second gold of the event. Hedlin, who went undefeated in the 1500-metre freestyle this year both in varsity and regular Swimming Canada competition, also travelled to the Australian Open Water Championships in February and won the 10-kilometre race by a large margin before winning the 5-kilometre race by over 50 seconds the next day against international competition.
Marc-Antoine Olivier of France won in a time of 54:31.4, holding off a late charge by Mario Sanzullo of Italy (54:32.1), while Timothy Shuttleworth of Great Britain (54:42.1) broke away from the pack for bronze.
“I was happy with my finish. With 1,000 metres to go I was passing people left and right, but I was too far back. I wanted to go come top ten or top seven, but it’s a learning experience. I came in here really fit, I just need to work a couple more things. I’m confident for the future, but I’m disappointed in the race.”
Swimming Canada’s Distance/Open Water Coach, Mark Perry, thought Hedlin’s effort was there, but needs improvement on certain technical aspects.
“Fourteenth in the world is a decent result. There are some skills we need to work on with Eric, particularly with the turns around the buoys. He knows himself, he knows he’s got it in him to be up on the podium,” Perry said. “He put in the effort, it’s just the tactical and technical issues that we need to put right.”
Perry is focusing on what the team can learn from the World Championships.
“The goal of the team coming into the meet was to try to keep improving. To be world-class you have to improve meet on meet. One of the things we’re trying to do here is give each athlete appropriate feedback on their tactics and techniques. We’re using sport science and video analysis so we can sit down with them at the end of the race and try to make them better for the next one.”
“Each athlete racing here has further racing this summer. They’ve got World Cups in Canada or they’re going on to the FISU Games. We’re hoping we can build on this race experience moving forward.”
Hedlin captured a silver medal in this event at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona.
Saturday’s event is the women’s 10-km at 4 a.m. ET, which will feature Canadians Stephanie Horner and Jade Dusablon.