By Rebecca Cheverton
The past year has been filled with many big milestones for open water swimmer Eric Hedlin. The Victoria, B.C, native got married and bought his first home with his new wife, Taylor. Hedlin is now looking to hit another big mark by trying to qualify for his first Olympic Games.
Hedlin will be one of two Canadian males competing this week at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2021 in Setubal, Portugal.
“I’m just so happy to finally be at a point where we are heading to Portugal,” said Hedlin. “I’m just really excited at this point.”
Hedlin has won multiple international medals in open water since 2013. At his FINA World Championships debut he captured a silver medal in the 5-km race. Five years later, he got himself back on the podium by winning a silver medal in the 10-km open water race at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. The following year, he captured another medal, a bronze in the 5-km open race at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships.
“Open water is a competition where no two races are the same,” said Hedlin. “There’s always unknowns.”
“I think having [this] experience definitely is going to help with all these unknowns. […] Mark Perry is always saying you have to expect the unexpected, plans change, this year is when all these ideas have been tested.”
The past year came with many uncertainties, lack of competitions and changes to the swimming calendar due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Hedlin used his adaptability that he’s learnt through open water racing to help navigate these challenges. He also focused on future goals beyond the Olympics to keep a positive mindset.
“My mind set for most of the year has pretty much been I’m going to do as well as I can next year, you know I want to have a great Worlds 2022,” said Hedlin. “Obviously with the goal of always wanting this year to happen but by focusing on a further out target definitely kept everything more consistent and stable.”
The swimming calendar wasn’t the only thing in Hedlin’s life that kept changing. His wedding plans also came with many challenges with the pandemic. Their original plan was to get married in September 2020 but due to the health restrictions in place they moved the date to Jun 19, 2021. Unfortunately, as the Olympic Qualifier dates changed, the men’s race was now scheduled for Jun 19.
“As plans starting developing it was getting more and more obvious Jun 19th was not the greatest,” said Hedlin. “So a few months ago we decided ‘you know what let’s just get married April 17.’”
So, they planned to have a small wedding in Tofino, B.C. Unfortunately, the week before, B.C. health officials announced further restrictions which closed the use of wedding venues.
“So we just changed some plans again and we ended up getting married in my parent’s backyard,” said Hedlin.
They kept it small and had the ceremony in front of both their families.
Hedlin will keep the celebrations of the year going by racing this Sunday to try and punch his ticket to Tokyo at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier.
A total of 15 spots are at stake in the 10-km race to qualify for the Olympic Games. The nine highest placed athletes for the event will obtain their spot. One spot will go to the host country (Japan), and the 5 remaining spots will go to the highest placed athlete, not yet qualified, from each of the five Continents.
The men’s race takes place Sunday, Jun 20 at 4:00pm local time.
For more information on the event please click here: https://www.fina.org/competitions/8/fina-olympic-marathon-swim-qualifier-2021