By Jim Morris
Mackenzie Padington is hoping a return to Victoria will help pave the way for her to land a spot on Team Canada for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Padington has decided to take a year off from attending the University of Minnesota to train at the High Performance Centre – Victoria with coach Ryan Mallette. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Padington, who grew up in Campbell River, B.C., and had trained at the centre prior to attending university, where she is studying to become a teacher.
Much of her university training is done in short-course yards, so Padington is hoping to benefit from being back in the centre’s 50-metre swimming pool.
“For me, I really need that long course training,” she said. “I need to train long course and learn how to swim the 200-m freestyle long course. Training long course all the time, every day, will help me get there.”
Mallette said Padington’s work ethic and dedication set a standard for other swimmers at the centre.
“She brings to us a great amount of leadership and experience at this point,” he said. “What we hope to bring to her is a well-rounded (program) that can keep her healthy, keep her moving forward and provide the last few steps she needs to achieve her Olympic dream.”
Padington mostly focuses on the distance races. She swam personal best times in winning the 400-m and 1,500-m freestyle events at the 2019 Canadian Swimming Trials. She also won the 800-m freestyle and will be part of the Swimming Canada team competing at this summer’s FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Padington also has some relay experience. She was part of the 4×200-m freestyle team that finished third at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. She also swam on the 4×200 team that was eighth at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
It’s an event she wants to be part of next year in Tokyo. The team of Katerine Savard, Taylor Ruck, Brittany MacLean and Penny Oleksiak (with help from morning heat swimmers Emily Overholt and Kennedy Goss) took the bronze medal in the 4×200-metre relay at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Canadian record time.
“I really want to try to qualify in that,” said Padington. “It’s such a strong, fast race in Canada. I know it’s going to be hard to make that team.
“Our girls’ team is a lot stronger than three years ago. I really think it has the potential of doing something amazing and I want to be part of that relay.”
Padington knows she has her work cut out for her. She finished 21st in the 200-m freestyle preliminaries at the 2019 Canadian Trials in a time of two minutes, 3.49 seconds.
Oleksiak won the final in 1:56.92 with Ruck second in 1:56.97. Kayla Sanchez (1:58.28) and Rebecca Smith (1:58.64) also earned spots on the 4×200-m relay team.
Mallette said Padington will need to find the balance between the strength of a sprinter and the stamina of a distance swimmer.
“The sprint side has more strength,” he said. “You are trying to bring strength to the stamina girls, and you are trying to bring stamina to the strength-based girls.
“It just depends what side you are coming from.”
Padington also wants to improve on her race strategy, especially in the 400-m freestyle. In the past, she’s spent too much of her energy trying to lead after the first 50 metres. That can cost her energy down the stretch.
“I have the tendency of going out for it,” she said. “It’s something I need to control because I know I have the power.
“I think with all my races I just need to learn to swim them a lot smarter.”
In the past Padington has toyed with the idea of competing in the open water events but she has put the plan on the shelf for now.
“My shoulder will not hold it,” she said. “I got needling done a couple of times (at the Canadian Trials) because it seized up after the 1,500 metres.
“I honestly wish I could (swim open water). I can hold my speed and I’m not scared to be with the pack. It’s just something my body will not be able to handle. If I want to be part of that relay, I need to put my sole focus into the pool.”