The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Swim Trials wrapped up on Sunday and a number of current and former Vikes turned in impressive performances during the six-day event, hosted at the Pan Am Games Aqautic Centre in Toronto from April 5-10.
“Olympic Trials for many athletes is a once, maybe twice, in a lifetime experience,” said Vikes head coach Peter Vizsolyi. “It is full of emotion, ups and downs and the standards just to go to Rio are incredibly tough, and the meet is strung out over six full days.”
Overall, 27 athletes qualified for the Canadian team, including 19 women and eight men. Only seven pool swimmers on the men’s side were selected based on COC standards and two of those were relay swimmers. There were lots of near misses, including one by 2/100ths in the men’s 100-metre breastroke and another by 5/100ths in the men’s 400-metre medley relay.
Two former Vikes—Ryan Cochrane and Hilary Caldwell—won their best events to gain selection to the Rio Games. A distance swimmer and two-time Olympian, Cochrane is a double-medal threat after qualifying for the 400- and 1500-metre freestyle while Caldwell, who competed for Canada in London in 2012, qualified in the 200-metre backstroke.
Stephanie Horner, another former Vike, finished as the top Canadian at the FINA Olympic Qualifier in Fort Myers, Florida, on Friday to earn a spot at the 2016 Olympic 10km Swim Qualifier in Portugal. Horner finished in 16th place, beating out fellow Canadian Jade Dusablon by only .2 seconds.
Third-year Vike Jon McKay highlighted a number of strong performances for current UVic athletes, making the finals in both of his events—the 400- and 1500-metre freestyle.
McKay qualified for the 400-metre freestyle final in eighth position with a prelim time of 3:57.22 before improving one place in the finals to finish seventh with a time of 3:57.46. He qualified for Sunday’s 1500-metre final with a strong swim on Saturday but fell short of qualifying in his final race (15:39.17).
“In retrospect it was a bit of a weird race,” said Vizsolyi about the 1500-metre final. “Almost the entire final field was 20 seconds off their best times and it didn’t seem like they were ‘outfoxing each other,’ just that they all fell away from being able to go 1:01’s as the race progressed.”
Kaitlin Gervais was the other Vikes athlete to qualify for finals, making the B Final in the 400-metre freestyle with a personal best prelim time of 4:22.89 and the A Final of the 800-metre freestyle with a best of 9:00.34. She touched the wall in 18th in the 400 (4:23.82) and 10th in the 800 (9:04.69).
“I missed making Olympic Trials in 2012 by seven tenths of a second, which was really disappointing, so to be here for 2016 and to swim in the A Final is incredible,” said Gervais after her race. “These are people that I have looked up to for years and now to be racing in the same final with them trying to qualify for the Olympics is an amazing experience.”
Victoria Mock joined Gervais in the 800-metre freestyle, finishing with a time of 9:08.82 in the preliminaries. Her clocking was just over her personal best and placed her 22nd in the field.
Brett Zollen was the Vike swimming in the most events, as the fourth-year fine arts major hit the water for a total of four races. He swam to a lifetime best in the 100-metre breaststroke (1:05.95), the 100-metre freestyle (52.86) and the 200-metre individual medley (2:09.11) and was just off his personal best in the 50-metre freestyle.
Evan Letkeman followed Zollen with three races over the six-day event, swimming a 2:07.98 in the 200-metre backstroke, a 58.91 in the 100-metre backstroke, and a personal best of 1:55.00 in the 200-metre freestyle on the first day of the event.
He was joined in the 200-metre freestyle by first-year Vike William Murdock. Competing at his first senior national meet, Murdock swam to a personal best time of 1:53.66. He showed great control on the first one hundred and, as a result, brought the back half of his race home in great splitting.
Second year Buzz Mallender swam the 100 and 200-metre backstroke, posting a time of 59.52 in the 100 back and 2:09.02 in the 200 back. In his final event representing the Vikes, Richard Bourgeoisswam to a time of 1:06.26 in the 100-metre breastroke. The fourth-year Vike owns the school record for the 50-metre breaststroke.
Sarah Galbraith, the only current Vike not swimming for PCS at the event, competed in both the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke. She finished with a time of 2:44.47 in the 200-metre race and a time of 1:14.87 in the 100.