CARLISLE BAY, Barbados – Canadian swimmers won all six titles at the Barbados Open Water Festival during the weekend, but the skills they learned will hold greater value long after their victories have been recorded.
Canada sent a contingent of 22 swimmers and six coaches to the festival, which featured a series of practices, clinics and classroom sessions.
The Barbados trip – supported by Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta and Ontario – was Swimming Canada’s first Pan-Canadian open water camp. Each of those provinces sent top distance swimmers to train and learn about open water strategies and techniques.
Swimming Canada distance/open water coach Mark Perry said the training was designed to show swimmers who have previously been successful in the pool that they could also perform well in open water competitions.
The four provinces funded swimmers to attend in support of the Swimming Canada initiative. Perry thanked the provincial associations for supporting the trip, noting the practices and classroom time were beneficial to both the swimmers and coaches who attended.
“They formed a very strong bond,” Perry said, noting that Swimming Canada will look to organize a similar initiative in the future.
The swimmers practised in the pool during the mornings and in Carlisle Bay on the afternoons and also attended classes every day. They took all of that knowledge into the eighth annual Barbados Open Water Festival competition during the weekend.
“We were able to film them and give them instant feedback,” which provided important analysis, Perry said, adding the experience will give them improved skills they can use in future competitions.
Three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner (Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria) won the women’s 1.5-kilometre race on Saturday and the 10-km race on Sunday.
“I was pleased and just happy to race because I need get as much racing in as possible,” said the 30-year-old native of Bathurst, N.B.
Horner won the 1.5-km race with a time of 17:19.8, which was also 12th overall in the event, which attracted a total field of 322 swimmers. Horner liked the idea of swimming against the men because it forced her to work harder to keep up with the leaders.
“It was great practice,” she said.
Kenna Smallegange, of the Burlington Aquatic Devilrays, placed second and Madison Archer, of the Nepean Kanata Barracudas, was third.
Eric Brown, of the Pointe-Claire Swim Club, captured the men’s 1.5-km race with a time of 16:50.4. Bailey Harrison of Great Britain was second, followed by Ian Friesen (Club Warriors) and Drew Edwards (Edmonton Keyano Swim Club). Friesen won the men’s 5-km race.
Brown said pre-race practices helped him prepare, noting he entered the event “super confident.”
On Sunday, Horner followed up Saturday’s win with a victory in the women’s 10-km race. Her time of 2:02.27.7 was also sixth overall in the field of 54 swimmers.
Smallegange placed second and Mia Desjarlais (Neptune Natation) finished third.
Edwards took home the men’s 10-km title, followed by Brown and Liam Clawson-Honeyman (Natation Gatineau). Edwards topped the field with a time of 2:01.04.8.
“It was a good race and I think what made the difference for me was that I took a little different line than the others,” Edwards said. “I came here not focused on winning as much as my development, but I won anyway and that was a bonus.”
Catherine Minic (Grand-Prairie Piranhas) won the women’s 5-km race with a time of 1:04.20.3, followed by Juliette Davidson (Neptune Natation) and Jordan Greber (Grande-Prairie).
Minic joked that her strong showing was partly because her “hat did not fall off this time,” like it did during Saturday’s 1.5-km race.
“It got a little wavy by the second lap, but I just put my head down and thought ‘you’re going to choke on water a little bit so keep going.’ ”
Other coaches on staff were: Alex Dawson, Brian Lindsay, Russ Franklin, Martin Gingras and Alexandre Gendron.
Top finishers by age-class were also recognized by the Barbados Open Water Festival.
The top three in the men’s 1.5-km for 13-17 year-olds were: Brown, Friesen and Edwards. In the men’s 18-24 year-olds, Guillaume Lord (Mustang Club Natation) was second and Xavier Pimentel (Natation Gatineau) was third.
In the men’s 5-km for 13-17 year-olds, Friesen topped the field, followed by Pelletier and Matteis. Minic was first in the women’s 5-km for 13-17 year-olds, followed by Davidson and Greber.
Smallegange was first in the 10-km for women 13-17 years old and Archer was second. In the 5-km for women in the same age division, Minic, Davidson and Greber took the top three spots.
Desjarlais was tops in the women’s 10-km for 18-24 year-olds and Rosalie Davidson was third. Horner was the top 18-34 year-old woman in that distance.