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Two top ten finishes for Canada to round off the 2022 FINA World Junior Open Water Championships

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MAHÉ, Seychelles – Team Canada finished a busy weekend of long distance racing with two top ten finishes in the mixed 4×1500-m relays at the 2022 FINA World Junior Open Water Championships Sunday.

Abby Dunford, Dominik Kwiecien of Grande Prairie, Alta, and Julia Strojnowska and Zach McLeod of Vancouver finished eighth in the 14-16 year old category in 1:17:34.90. The team was Canada’s highest ranking finish of the weekend.

Nathan Szobota, Sam Marsteiner, Katie Grimes and Claire Weinstein of the U.S. won gold in 1:13:09.80. Germany captured silver in 1:13:21.30 followed closely by Turkey in 1:13:24.00.

Dunford, who placed 12th in the women’s 7.5-km event on Friday, led off the 14-16 mixed relay and was proud of the team’s performance.

“I wanted to represent Canada in the best way that I could,” Dunford said. “I feel like I did a good job at that. I felt a lot better in the relay than in the 7.5-km. I ended up getting my hand on the pontoon fourth so I am proud of myself and my team.”

In the Open category, Mira Szimcsak, Bettina Fabian, Arshak Hambardzumyan and David Betlehem of Hungary finished first in 1:11:20.10. Germany touched in second in 1:12:53.30 and Italy in third in 1:13:27.50.

Olivier Risk of Ottawa, Ont, Diego Paz of Edmonton, Alta, and Megan Frost and Megan Willar of Pointe-Claire, Que. fought for a ninth place finish. Finishing in 1:16:28.70, the team earned Canada its second top ten finish of the weekend.

Having competed in the 10-km event at the 2022 FINA Marathon Swim World Series at the end of August, Willar has experience swimming a variety of open water events. Willar placed 27th in the women’s 10-km in 2:22:26.70 on Saturday and was excited about racing in the shorter relay distance.

“The relay was really fun,” Willar said. “It was exciting to see everyone go before me since I was going last. That gave me a good idea of what position we were in. I was in a tough position because I was trying to catch up to a girl from Mexico and she cut me off right at the end. I finished 0.20 seconds behind her but it was still a really great race.”

Two Hungarians won gold in both the men’s and women’s 10-km races. Bettina Fabian finished in 2:03:11.40 and David Betlehem in 1:53:10.30.

Paz and Frost also competed in the 10-km events. Frost placed 22nd in the women’s event in 2:16:25:40. On the men’s side, Paz finished 18th in 2:02:20.50.

For his first time racing the event, Paz was happy with his performance.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Paz said. “It was my first 10-km so I wanted to go into it with an open mind. It was the longest race I’ve ever done and it scared me a bit but I hung in there the whole way.”

National Open Water and Distance Coach Mark Perry highlighted the team’s unexpected results despite their lack of racing experience at this level of open water competition.

“This has been a challenging week with some ups and downs which is always expected with this kind of competition,” Perry said. “We’ve had some good results from a very inexperienced team of young athletes, some of them swimming their first time ever in this distance of event and performing pretty well.”

Perry also explained how the team used the relays to bond and put their racing strategies into practice. With two top ten finishes, Canada continues to show its relay strength, both in and out of the pool.

“I’m really proud of what they accomplished today and I’m pretty sure this team has learnt a lot from this experience,” Perry added.


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