After reviewing multiple options and scenarios, Swimming Canada remains focused on holding the Olympic Swimming Trials, Presented by Bell, in Toronto June 19-23.
Swimming Canada announced changes to the Trials last month, cancelling the Paralympic portion, and postponing the Olympic Trials by a month due to the COVID-19 situation in Ontario and other provinces.
“The organization has explored several options, including holding the Trials elsewhere in North America. Each scenario comes with its own positive and negative factors, but we believe holding Olympic Trials in Canada, at our premier pool in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, is the best option,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi.
Swimming Canada, in partnership with Swim Ontario, has prepared a robust 37-page Event Safety Plan. Strict risk mitigation protocols will allow Canada’s best high performance swimmers to compete for spots on Team Canada in as safe an environment as possible.
“We have confirmation from Toronto Public Health that the event can proceed under the High Performance Exemption implemented by the Government of Ontario. We are working with our partners at the City of Toronto and Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre to ensure this will be a safe event that gives us the opportunity to select the best team to represent Canada,” El-Awadi said.
Swimming Canada had previously announced that events at the invitation-only Trials would be contested as timed finals only. Swimming Canada is now working towards a plan that will include preliminary heats and finals for distances 200 metres and shorter, with timed finals for distances 400 metres and longer. Further details about live streaming on CBC, and a campaign to rally the swimming community to support athletes will be announced soon.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Program continues to review and adapt its high performance plans for Olympic Games preparation following the Trials. The team had been scheduled to travel overseas in early July for a staging camp in Toyota, Japan, which hosted Canada’s staging camp ahead of the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Instead the team will convene in Vancouver before travelling directly into Tokyo ahead of the Games.
“Our Olympic Program has made the decision to stay in Canada for our preparations into the Olympic Games. We will no longer be doing our holding camp at Toyota City and Chukyo University and will be going straight into the Olympic Games village,” said High Performance Director John Atkinson. “The staging camp based in Toyota was a key part of our preparation for the successful 2019 world championships, and we were looking forward to returning to their world-class facilities. Mr Shiehiro Takahashi and the staff at Chukyo University made us feel extremely welcome in 2019 and we will always be grateful for that. Given the circumstances of this year and the COVID-19 situation in Japan, however, this decision is in the best interests of all involved.”
Following Trials, selected swimmers will return to their home programs for several days before the camp. The team will train at the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre, home of the High Performance Centre – Vancouver.
“Our long-standing partners at the University of British Columbia have shown incredible flexibility and hard work on short notice to enable us to hold a staging camp in Canada,” Atkinson said. “We are delighted to be at UBC and would like to thank UBC Aquatic Centre Senior Manager, Programs & Operations, Stephane Delisle and his team to make this change to assist our swimmers.”
“UBC opened this facility four years ago with the vision of catering to students, faculty, staff and high performance training,” said Kavie Toor, Managing Director, UBC Athletics and Recreation. “It gives us great pride to accommodate Team Canada’s pre-Olympic camp at our state of the art facility while continuing to deliver services to our community.
“In many ways, this has been the most challenging year-plus that our organization has ever faced,” said President Cheryl Gibson. “Swimming Canada’s board of directors has repeatedly asked management to be adaptable, change plans, and explore options. Thanks to the work that has been done with our local, provincial, federal and sport partners, we believe Swimming Canada can host a successful Olympic Trials in Toronto in late June.
“While we have also decided to remain in Canada for our final Games preparation, we would like to sincerely thank our partners in Toyota, Japan, for the strong working relationship we have enjoyed with them. We hope to return there one day after the situation with the global pandemic has improved.”