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Team Canada travels to Tokyo for final Pan Pacs preparations

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WAKAYAMA, Japan – Team Canada has wrapped up its staging camp and is moving into Tokyo for its final preparations for the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.

The team completed its two-week camp in Wakayama, Japan, on the heels of the Canadian Swimming Trials in Edmonton. High Performance Director John Atkinson acknowledged it’s been a long year for national team swimmers. Many already competed in the Commonwealth Games in April, when trials are normally held, then travelled straight to Japan after making this team. The conditions in Wakayama have helped the team prepare to the best of its ability.

“The focus of the team is as always to improve from trials to championships. This year we feel we were in a good location to get the best possible preparation,” Atkinson said.

Canada’s swimmers enjoyed exclusive use of the Akibasan Aquatic Centre for two three-hour sessions daily at the facility’s state-of-the-art 50-m and 25-m pools. The 35 swimmers include five who will participate in the open water competition and were able to train at the nearby Kataonami Beach.

“This is also our staging venue leading into the 2020 Olympic Games. With close proximity to our team hotel it made for a great staging venue. We are grateful for the support of Wakayama Prefecture and the City of Wakayama in making this camp possible for Swimming Canada,” Atkinson said.

“Being in Wakayama and travelling into Tokyo is really important for our preparations. We will do the same in 2020 leading into the Olympic Games. Swimming Canada are grateful for the support of Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee in making our plans possible for 2018 to mirror what we do in 2020.”

The Pan Pacific Championships are a high-level international meet featuring charter nations Canada, the United States, Australia and host Japan, which hosted the first edition in 1985. In addition, several other countries are invited. Canada will host the 14th Pan Pacs in 2022.

Canada’s female team is the youngest since Atkinson took over after the 2012 Olympic Games, with an average age of 20.5 years old. The team features nine first-time senior A long-course team members, with the youngest being Kyla Leibel of Red Deer, Alta., who turns 17 later this year. Canada also has veteran presence, including three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner, 29, and international medallist Richard Funk, 26.

Swimmers to watch include Commonwealth Games standouts Taylor Ruck, who tied the all-time record with eight medals in Gold Coast, and Kylie Masse, who won two gold on the heels of her 100-m backstroke world championship win in 2017. World 400-m individual medley bronze medallist Sydney Pickrem is also back in action, while Olympic medallists Emily Overholt and Kennedy Goss rejoin the team after a year away.

Pan Pacific Swimming Championships will be live streamed August 9-14 on CBC Sports, Swimming Canada will also have live updates on Twitter throughout the meet.

Meanwhile, in Brisbane, Australia, the other Team Canada is making its final preparations before moving north for the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns.

The third edition of the championships will be Canada’s first with new Associate High Performance Director Wayne Lomas at the helm as Team Leader.

“The opportunity to race in the Asia-Pacific region is a terrific launch-pad into Tokyo 2020; it’s a meet that allows us to put into place our routines and practice racing as we move toward Tokyo,” said Lomas, who will lead Canada against his native Australia, among other countries. “Competing against the Aussies on their home soil as well as the Japanese and New Zealanders who are so close to home, is a big challenge, and one that we relish.”

Lomas said the team is focused on a professional approach to preparation and racing.

“Earning a Canadian team tracksuit is an immense honour, and one that every swimmer should be very proud of, but to swim a lifetime best when representing Canada in an international event should be the goal of every swimmer and that is our focus in Cairns,” Lomas said.

The 18 swimmers include Paralympic medalists Aurelie Rivard, Nicolas-Guy Turbide, Tess Routliffe, and Katarina Roxon as well as senior team rookies Angela Marina and Matthew Cabraja.

The team also features Shelby Newkirk, fresh from her world record breaking performances at the Canadian Swimming Trials in Edmonton.

Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships will be live streamed August 9-13 on the Swimming Australia Website, Swimming Australia YouTube page  and the Australian Dolphins Facebook page. Swimming Canada will also have updates on Twitter throughout the meet.