Following a sensational performance last weekend at the Neptune International meet in Montreal, some of Canada’s top Para-swimmers might feel entitled to ask their own version of the centuries-old philosophical question: If a world record is broken but no one from World Para Swimming is around to witness it, is it really a world record?
A whopping 13 Canadian short-course standards were shattered at the Olympic Park pool from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, most of them by members of the High Performance Centre – Quebec group, led by head coach Mike Thompson.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, four of those swims came under world-record time, including Aurélie Rivard in the women’s 100 and 200-metre freestyle S10 (58.61 / 2:05.63), Tess Routliffe in the women’s 100 individual medley S7 (1:27.01) and Zach Zona in the men’s 800 free S8 (9:54.00).
Don’t look for those lightning-fast times in the world record book, however. Why? None of them are official in the eyes of the international governing body as the meet was not WPS-sanctioned.
“The situation is not overly unusual, it does happen from time to time. Getting a meet sanctioned by WPS is a long and thorough process,” says Thompson. “It actually happened as recently as last month at the Swim International in Brantford, where Aurélie also swam under world-record time in the 200 free.
“What’s unusual is to have that many at one meet. Four is definitely the most I’ve ever seen.”
With so many competitions being held year-round across the country, having each of them sanctioned by WPS is not realistic, confirms Christine Rowland, Swimming Canada’s coordinator, Domestic Operations.
“All of our major meets are, of course, for example the Canadian Trials, national championships, etc. While it’s not the only factor, cost comes into play when we look at which events we should get sanctioned. The pool needs to be surveyed by WPS officials before the meet, and also after a world record is broken. Drug testing also needs to be set up.
“It’s certainly an interesting twist to have Canadian records that, officially, are faster than world records,” adds Rowland, whose tasks include being the “keeper” of Swimming Canada’s record book.
While they would obviously prefer to see their accomplishments being officially recognized at the international level, neither Thompson nor his athletes are about to lose any sleep over it.
“It’s one thing to say you’re faster than the world record, but it’s another thing to actually have it. So of course it’d be nice,” says the CHP-Q mentor. “But for us, the main thing is we’re always looking to use our athletes’ competitiveness to keep them motivated. It’s easy to get complacent over the course of a long season, so at each meet we find ways to push them.
“The funny thing about last weekend is it all started with a conversation between athletes, on the first morning, around who could break one of the short-course world records. Once Zach did it in the 800, then it became a contest among all swimmers. They not only broke records, they destroyed them.”
Rivard, a 22-year-old from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and Zona, a 19-year-old from Waterford, Ont., both finished the Neptune International with four personal bests.
“I’m really happy with my performances from last weekend. It’s still very early in the season and, as the years go by, it’s harder for me to lower my personal-best times at smaller competitions,” says Rivard, a multiple Paralympian who owns the world long-course marks in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 free S10. “Of course I would have preferred to see my world records be official, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me much. I see it more as a stepping stone to the championships coming up in April and a boost of confidence for next summer’s world championships. More than unofficial world records, these are personal-best times and that’s what I’ve always prioritized. I’m my biggest rival.”
Zona, who pulverized his previous PB in the 800 free by almost seven seconds, agrees on all accounts.
“I was extremely pleased with the 800. We don’t often race short course so having the opportunity to put down a comparatively faster time (to long course) is always enjoyable. Having results like this at an early point in the season is a big confidence boost going forward. Having this new Canadian record is obviously a great feeling. Even though it won’t officially stand as a world record, it is still exciting to know that I have put down a time that hasn’t been done before.”