By Nathan White
Young and looking for results.
That description could be used for Canada’s Olympic swimming team – or its newly-announced head coach. Swimming Canada announced today that Ben Titley will be Canada’s head coach at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, reprising his role from the successful Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
This will be Titley’s fourth Olympics, but first as part of a Canadian team. He was part of the British Swimming staff in 2004, 2008 and 2012, including women’s head coach at the Beijing 2008 Games.
In addition to serving as Canada’s head coach for Toronto 2015, he held head coaching posts for Britain at past world championships and European championships. He has been a national team coach at every long-course FINA World Championships since 2001, with his athletes winning medals at seven of the eight events.
“It’s an honour,” said Titley. “Obviously we’ve got very good young talent on both the men’s and women’s side. We’re shooting for medals and the best performances we can.”
Despite all his experience, Titley himself is still a relatively young 39 and has brought a new energy to national teams since coming to Canada in 2013. The Englishman took over the fledgling High Performance Centre – Ontario at that time and he has put the program on the map.
His swimmers include the top four 100-m freestylers at the recent Olympic & Para-swimming Trials. Breakout 15-year-old Penny Oleksiak set a world junior and Canadian record of 53.31 to join double Pan Am gold medallist Chantal Van Landeghem, Sandrine Mainville and Michelle Williams as Canada’s likely relay team, all Olympic rookies. Titley also guided national team stalwart Audrey Lacroix to qualifying for her third Games. With Lacroix and Oleksiak under his watch, Titley can claim coaching credit for both the oldest and youngest members of the team.
Of the 27 swimmers, 20 will be competing in their first Olympics. For four of those 20, it will be their first senior A team ever.
“It’s exciting but challenging,” Titley said. “My role is to try to maximize the environment we have the athletes in and make sure everybody is confident going to Rio.”
Supporting Titley’s efforts to lead the young squad will be two veteran team captains appointed after discussion with the Swimming Canada Athletes’ Council. Two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane and 2012 Olympic finalist Martha McCabe will assume those leadership roles.
“We have an incredibly strong group of athletes, of all ages, competing in Rio this summer, and it’s an honour to be recognized as a leader amongst such great people,” said Cochrane, 27. “Hopefully my experience at the Games will allow me to help our newer athletes deal with the pressures an Olympics inevitably brings. I have the utmost confidence in every member of our team and I know we will all do well come August.”
“Even after being on the national team for eight years I am still learning from swimmers around me, often from some of the youngest on the team. So although it is an absolute honour, I really just hope that each and every swimmer feels just as honoured and privileged to be on the Canadian Olympic swim team because many people would give up everything to have an opportunity like this,” McCabe added.
I hope each and every swimmer feels just as honoured and privileged to be on the Canadian Olympic swim team because many people would give up everything to have an opportunity like this – Martha McCabe
“Both Ryan and Martha have great experience and are exceptionally professional in their approach,” added Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson, who will serve as Team Leader in Rio. “They will be great leaders for the athletes on the team.
“I am delighted with the overall team composition of both athletes, support staff and coaches that will represent Canada in Rio.”
Atkinson pointed to the strength of the entire coaching staff – which also includes Tom Johnson (High Performance Centre – Vancouver), Linda Kiefer (University of Toronto), Ryan Mallette (High Performance Centre – Victoria), Kevin Thorburn (Etobicoke Swimming). Steve Price (UBC Dolphins) will serve as coach with the open water team.
“They will provide balance to the coaching responsibilities of individual athletes and to the relays,” Atkinson said. “Our announcement of Ben as head coach will bring continuity from 2015. His experience and passion will bring a great deal to our team in the staging camp in Toronto and on into Rio.”
Behind the scenes the team will be supported by a team of managers, sports science practitioners and medical professionals. Janice Hanan and Brian Edey (open water) will reprise their roles as team managers while Swimming Canada Integrated Support Team Director Dr. Allan Wrigley will lead the support team.