OTTAWA – Team Canada is looking to the future after a “good, but not great” performance at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns, Australia.
“With less than two years until Tokyo, Top 5 in the world is where we will now focus our attention and our resources,” said Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate Director of High Performance and Para-swimming National Coach. “The next step for every member of the Paralympic program nationwide, including swimmers, coaches, and our science and medical experts, is to find the two or three things that will make a positive difference to their performance and commit to it.”
Next season is an important one with the world championships in Kuching, Malaysia, and Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru. Those teams will be selected at Trials in April, but preparation is already underway, with eight athletes set to attend the upcoming Japanese Para Swimming Championships in Yokohama Sept. 22-24.
“Based on what we know it will take to perform next year and in Tokyo, I will be looking for highly ranked athletes to make the teams, allowing them and their coaches to build on that foundation toward our benchmark events,” Lomas said.
Lomas joined the organization in June, and made his Team Leader debut for Canada at Para Pan Pacs. The 18-member Canadian squad returned from Australia with 40 medals (38 Individual and two relay) including 14 gold. Canadians swam 24 personal-best times, set 10 national records, three Americas marks and one new world standard.
“We congratulate the many PBs achieved in Cairns but that’s just a step. It’s good to see where we are at after not having a true opportunity to race since Rio, but our performance in Cairns certainly didn’t exceed the one from 2014,” Lomas said.
By way of comparison, a much larger contingent of 32 swimmers came back from the 2014 Para Pan Pacs with 67 medals, 87 personal bests and 29 national records.
“Whilst an overall PB rate of 38 per cent is good, it falls short of the 50 per cent benchmark that we should aspire to at every major international event. We must ensure that this is a foundation point to build from.”
While he recognizes there is still a lot of work to be done ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Lomas saw lots of positives from his athletes in Cairns.
Aurélie Rivard, a multiple Paralympic champion from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., broke her own world record in the 400-metre freestyle S10 on the first night of the championships on Aug. 9, lowering the bar to 4 minutes, 29.27 seconds, while Saskatoon’s Shelby Newkirk won the 100 backstroke S7 final in 1:20.66, only 0.53 seconds from the world standard she set at Trials.
For his part, Nicolas-Guy Turbide, a Paralympic medallist from Quebec City, established a pair of Americas records in the 200 individual medley SM13 (2:15.03) and the 100 back S13 (59.28).
“Aurélie Rivard, Nicolas-Guy Turbide, Shelby Newkirk, Tess Routliffe, among others, once again demonstrated their world-class credentials. Aurélie’s world record in the 400 free is significant, as is Shelby swimming the second fastest 100 back ever, with her own performance at Trials in Edmonton being the only one quicker,” Lomas said.
Among other big positives, Lomas points to the strength of Coach Mike Thompson’s CHP-Quebec program in Montreal, whose swimmers won more than a quarter of Canada’s individual medals.
All told, 17 performances were ranked inside the world Top 8, and, 12 swims from six different swimmers that ranked in the Top 5.
“Top 5 is the base that we want to build on towards Tokyo,” said Lomas.
Added to this were the promising performances of emerging swimmers such as Matthew Cabraja (15), Danielle Dorris (15), Sabrina Duchesne (17) and Abi Tripp (17). Lomas was also pleased to see 12 of 18 team members achieve at least one all-time best in Australia, including all five men.