By Jim Morris
Back at her family’s home in Scottsdale, Ariz., Taylor Ruck keeps a duffle bag that is filled with the medals she’s won over her career.
“It’s really heavy,” explained Ruck.
Ruck turned some heads and made history when she won eight medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. That tied a record for the most medals won by an athlete at a single Games. While justifiably pleased with her medal haul, the 18-year-old, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario, is more focused on the future than dwelling on past achievements. “I have put it in the back of my mind,” said Ruck, who is part of the 32-member Canadian team that will compete at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Tokyo Aug. 9-14.
“Coming off the Commonwealth Games I knew I needed to get back to work for the Pan Pacs and finish off my season training strong.”
Ruck’s coach Ben Titley said the Commonwealth Games performance was another step in the swimmer’s development. “I think that meet itself was part of the moving on process,” said Titley. “That meet wasn’t the end result or the end focus.”
It’s early in Ruck’s career but she’s already demonstrated an ability to swim multiple events in a short span of time.
Titley said Ruck did 18 swims in six days at the Commonwealth Games. During a meet in Switzerland in December she had 12 swims in two days. She managed 16 swims while competing over a six-day span this summer. “Getting used to swimming lots of events at meets is a great practice for an Olympic Games,” said Titley. “We’re constantly practising what is going to be asked of her when we go to a world championships or we go to an Olympic Games.”
In Tokyo Ruck is expected to race the 50, 100 and 200-metre freestyle, the 100 and 200-m backstroke, the 200-m individual medley and also be part of the relays. The Kelowna, B.C., native likes the heavy work load.
“Part of me likes it because I don’t have to focus on one event and get stressed about how well I do that event, stressed about the particulars,” said Ruck. “A part of me also would like to do one event so I can focus on it more.”
At the Commonwealth Games Ruck won the 200-m freestyle in a Commonwealth record time and was second in the 50-m free, where she set a Canadian record. She added a silver in the 200-m backstroke, and bronze medals in 100-m back and 100-m freestyle. Ruck was also a member of the relay teams that took silver in the 4×100-m and 4×200-m freestyle relay, as well as the 4×100-m medley relay.
Titley said Ruck will face stiffer competition at the Pan Pacs which attracts swimmers from Australia, Japan and the U.S. “I think the Pan Pacs, in her events, will be as tough a competition as there is in the world,” he said. “She could swim best times and not win medals in the 200 freestyle. It will more than likely be quicker in Pan Pacs to win a medal in your events than it was at the Olympic Games.”
One thing Titley isn’t worried about is Ruck’s confidence being shaken.
“I think it’s very difficult to find anything that’s a bad experience, as long as you approach it the right way and you have a plan going into that,” he said. “It all becomes part of the process. Other people’s expectations on that event, with the greatest of respect, is somewhat irrelevant.”
Ruck was 16 when she won two relay bronze medals at her first Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. At the 2017 FINA World Junior Championships in Indianapolis she won seven medals, six of them gold. Ruck became the most decorated athlete at the World Junior Championships with 13 total medals.
While things are going smoothly for Ruck, Titley accepts there may be some bumps along the road. “Every six months we see her getting stronger,” he said. “She is still developing, it’s a process. With young women, and young female athletes, there’s sometimes plateaus. “I haven’t seen any change in her attitude wise. She’s still the same person she was before. She’s very conscious and hard working in her pursuit to be the best she can be.”
This fall Ruck plans to attend Stanford and possibly eventually study medicine.
The long and lanky Ruck comes by her six-foot frame naturally. Her father Colin is six-foot-nine and was a defenceman in the Western Hockey League in the late 1980s. “I saw a video of him punching someone,” Ruck said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ ”
Growing up Ruck played some basketball but liked swimming more. “I think the fact it’s non-contact,” she said.
Looking forward Ruck’s focus is competing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. By then, the duffle bag at her home may be even heavier.
“I hope so,” Ruck said.