VANCOUVER – Swimming Canada’s 24-member pool team says goodbye to Vancouver Friday as they leave for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The team wrapped up a two-week camp in Vancouver with a Friday morning training session at the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre. Rio 2016 Olympic medallists Penny Oleksiak, Taylor Ruck, Katerine Savard and Kylie Masse are among 10 returning Olympic swimmers in the group, which also includes London 2012 bronze medallist Brent Hayden, 37, back out of retirement after nine years away from the national team.
The veterans are joined by 14 newcomers including world 100-m butterfly champion Margaret Mac Neil and 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, the youngest Canadian swimmer since 13-year-old Robin Corsiglia in 1976. World junior medallists Katrina Bellio, Cole Pratt, Finlay Knox, Joshua Liendo and Gabe Mastromatteo are also among the first-time Olympians, Knox and Liendo fresh off Canadian records set at the Olympic Swimming Trials, presented by Bell.
The swimmers trained at the UBC Aquatic Centre daily, and participated in media days and photo shoots at both UBC and the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown hotel.
“We’re very fortunate to have great accommodations and a great training facility here in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia and the Marriott hotel. We’re really lucky to have had this environment in our preparation for Tokyo,” Masse said. “It’s been great to come together as Team Canada and to be all together under one roof training for Tokyo. I’m looking forward to finally getting there, getting established in the village and seeing the pool.”
Swimmers also connected via Zoom for a virtual friends and family event that included Swimming Canada’s ring ceremony tradition. Each swimmer was recognized for their accomplishment in making the Olympic team, receiving a gold ring featuring the Olympic rings, as they interacted with their families and friends watching and cheering via Zoom.
Longtime national team coach Tom Johnson, a member of the Olympic coaching staff, reviewed the history of the rings, a tradition dating back to the 1984 Games. Originally designed by a Mexican swimming official Johnson crossed paths with at an international event, the rings were made and sold informally in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Swimming Canada formalized the tradition for the 1984 team and is believed to be the first national sport federation in the world to give such a ring to every team member. That summer Canada won its first gold medals since 1912.
Swimming Canada produced a thank you video from the swimmers to their families, and the event ended with a surprise video from the families to their swimmers, showcasing the diverse backgrounds of those who supported along the way. Staff members were also recognized with rings following the friends and family event.
The camp was conducted under strict COVID-19 protocols, with regular testing and temperature checks, masking, distancing, and limited contact with those outside the camp environment.
“It was fantastic,” said High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson, who will be Team Leader at the Games. “The team have been able to do individual preparation while being part of the team and doing what they need to do to be able to be ready for the transition into Tokyo.”
Atkinson praised the facilities and staff at UBC Aquatic Centre, where the 50-metre pool could be adjusted for both long-course and short-course workouts. The team held two relay-focused workouts, one led by High Performance Centre – Ontario Head Coach Ben Titley, the other by High Performance Centre – Vancouver Performance Coach Tom Johnson. Canada had two relay medals in Rio, and has qualified for six of the seven relays at the Games. That includes all three women’s relays, which earned bronze medals at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea.
“The relay workouts are great for continuing to build the relay culture of our teams,” Atkinson said. “We’re focused on a relaxed, professional environment for our team, working with the coaches on individual and relay preparation, and getting the information we need from the Canadian Olympic Committee to transition directly into the Olympic Village.”
Meanwhile the open water team remains in Portugal after qualifying for the Games through the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier there. Kate Sanderson and Hau-Li Fan will travel to Tokyo July 27 in preparation for their Olympic debuts.
Canada enters the Tokyo Games after a six-medal performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The team won nine medals at the most recent FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in 2019.
Swimming competition begins July 24 with preliminary heats at 6 a.m. Eastern Time. For more information, visit: https://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/aquatics/swimming