They say records are meant to be broken!
That was certainly the mission for five of Canada’s para-swimming athletes based out of High Performance Centre – Quebec who competed at the Swim International in Brantford, Ont. last week.
“Our goals were very clear: have everyone thinking of swimming fast in an effort to get their names on some Canadian records,” said Mike Thompson, head coach, High Performance Centre – Quebec.
Four of the athletes – Tess Routliffe (Caledon, Ont.), Danielle Kisser (Delta, B.C.), James Leroux (Repentigny, Que.), and Zach Zona (Waterford, Ont.) – combined to smash eight Canadian para-swimming records.
While Routliffe set a new mark 1:40.82 in the women’s SB7 100m breaststroke, it was the 20-year-old Kisser who stole the show after putting her name in the Canadian record books four times including: the SB6 100m breaststroke after posting a time of 1:47.46; the SB6 100 m backstroke at 1:44.89; the SM6 200IM at 3:44.92; and the SB6 50m breaststroke with a time of 50.28.
“I was really happy with how the meet went. It has been a long time to go best times, and to hit it early in the season is a big confidence booster for me,” said Kisser. “I was quite surprised at how well I did – to be able to post these times in November. It is a huge confidence booster and I feel reassured.”
The results are validation Kisser’s move across the country to Montreal one year ago to join the high-performance culture created at the Quebec Centre was well worth it.
“Moving from the club to this high performance centre has been quite a positive change for me,” said Kisser, who is also studying Linguistics at Concordia University. “The first year was a big learning year for me, but this year we started training in September, and I was in the groove right from the beginning. I felt comfortable with the entire IST (Integrated Support Team). Everything I need is right here at the Centre so now I’m able to put everything I have into the pool.”
The Centre provides a focused training environment for like-minded individuals, allowing each of them to focus on excellence, while providing a complete structure to support the athletes psychologically and physically. Kisser and Routliffe share the pool with a group of target 2020 and target 2024 swimmers.
Two of those athletes are James Leroux and Zach Zona.
The 19-year-old Leroux set a new Canadian standard in the men’s SB9 100m breaststroke at 1:09.56. Zona put his name behind two records of his own – lowering the mark in the SB8 400m free to 4:50.76, and in the SB8 100m breaststroke when he clocked a time of 1:34.62.
“We were really focused on testing our shape and breaking records. This shows I’m in pretty good shape,” said Leroux, who added the off-season meets are key performance benchmarks. “I got a lot of confidence this weekend. Our next meet is in the beginning of December. I will be looking to build on this and have more personal bests.”
Those goals are music to the ears of head coach, Mike Thompson, who credits the culture and healthy internal competition created at the High Performance Centre – Quebec for the squad’s early success.
“When the Centre was formed in the Paralympic year, we had to focus the first year on really building relationships. Now we are pushing a little harder, holding athletes more accountable and encouraging them to go faster than they have ever been historically at this time of the season” said Thompson. “Everyone is under one roof sharing the same goals – they are always thinking of being fast and focused on excellence. Having that shared focus and vision in a single Centre makes it easier to work towards their goals.”
Two other non-Centre athletes also made their mark in the record books. Ally Van Wyck-Smart, who trains with Variety Village Aquatic Club and is a member of the Ontario Swim Academy Para Swimming program, also set new marks in the women’s sport class 3 – 50m freestyle 1:33.36, 50m backstroke 1:32.91, and the 100m backstroke 3:13.61. Van Wyck-Smart was also a member of the recent Swimming Canada Sport Class 1 to 5 camp that was hosted in Toronto. Led by National Development Coach, Janet Dunn, the camp was designed to help develop both swimmers and coaches from the clubs across the country
A local Brantford Aquatic Club swimmer, Angela Marina, also made a statement, setting five new Canadian records in sport class 14 50m freestyle at 28.98, 400m freestyle 5:04.22, 800m freestyle 10:33.10, 100m butterfly 1:09.64 and the 200m individual medley in 2:40.61. Marina is a member of the Swimming Canada’s NextGen camp programs, which allows targeted athletes the opportunity to train together under NextGen and Pathway Coach, Michel Berube.
The pursuit of excellence continues for Canada’s para-swimmers with a stop at the Ontario Swimming Academy Para-Swimming where they will lead a mini-camp with a number of local athletes in Toronto at the Ontario Para-Swimming Academy before returning back to home base.
The initiative builds on a partnership started between Swim Ontario and Swimming Canada that provides enhanced opportunities for Ontario-based athletes to access enhanced services to help shape their daily training environment. With many clubs in Ontario outgrowing their pool space, the OSAPS provides dedicated lane space to targeted athletes, providing them a more ideal training environment. Coach Thompson will be working with Coach Don Burton and biomechanist Amber Hutchinson as they partner in the provision of training both for the Centre athletes, and those of the Ontario Swim Academy Para Swimming, with one common goal.