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Talbot expecting results from new-look HPC-Vancouver

VANCOUVER – Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre – Vancouver swimmers are jumping, stretching and planking, their regular routine to get heart rates up and ready for another training session in the UBC Aquatic Centre pool.

As the activation comes to a close, new Head Coach Scott Talbot gathers the team around a large whiteboard to go over the day’s workout. His voice is calm, quiet and friendly, but his understated demeanour belies an intensity forged by experience at the highest levels. He is here to get results from his 11-swimmer group and every detail is important.

“The environment has to facilitate moving the athletes forward to international teams and medals. There has to be some real clarity and intent around how we do things day to day,” said Talbot, who started in November. “They’ve got to know they’ve got to work really hard to get the results that they want.”

Danielle Hanus, Emma O’Croinin, Hau-Li Fan and Raben Dommann are all returning athletes who have made at least one senior national team. They’re joined by fellow returnee Liam Clawson-Honeyman as well as newcomers Blake Tierney, Justice Migneault, James LeBuke, James Dergousoff, Eloise Allen and Keir Ogilvie.

“It’s been really good this season. We went from a group of four to five towards the end of last year, and now we’re a group of 11,” Hanus said. “We have a lot of positive people and everyone wants to come in and work really hard and then keep moving forwards.”

Every one has a different story and a different background. Fan was ninth in the open water marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Dergousoff made his first national team in 2015 and worked his way back last year after a circuitous seven-year hiatus. Others have had U Sports success. LeBuke, a product of the former Victoria NextGen program, is back in Canada and hoping for better things after a stint at University of Michigan. Allen is from the tiny town of Sechelt, B.C. They’re all chasing the same thing.

“Our aim is to work towards getting all our athletes to represent Canada at the highest level they possibly can, with the overriding objective to improve the overall level of Swimming Canada by our athletes’ performances,” Talbot says.

Talbot chooses some of his words carefully. But asked to describe the challenge in front of him in a word, he doesn’t miss a beat: “Exciting.”

He has been there as an athlete, competing at two Olympic Games for New Zealand, and as a coach of multiple national team swimmers for Australia, arguably the world’s most passionate swimming nation. Some would even say it’s in his blood – Talbot is the son of coaching legends Don Talbot and Jan Cameron. The former was Canada’s head coach in the successful 1980s era, and Scott began his schooling in Ottawa.

Talbot joins an on-deck coaching team that was led in the interim by Assistant Coach Mandy Bell and Performance Scientist Tom Vandenbogsaerde. Performance analyst Graham Olson is also on deck full time, with several other service providers such as physiotherapy, massage and mental performance consulting available to support the athletes in partnership with UBC and Canadian Sport Institute Pacific.

“Scott has integrated himself very well into the program,” Bell said. “He creates a very positive training environment for the athletes and a positive work environment for the staff. Obviously we work hard but we enjoy the process alongside that.”

The early results are promising. For example, Dergousoff has already dropped more than three seconds from his 200-m breaststroke.

“We’re pushing each other and trying to raise that next level,” LeBuke said. “I had a couple years of injuries and was just wanting to come back to fast long-course swimming. Hearing Scott’s coming and the group that we assembled I wanted to train with them.

LeBuke said Talbot has brought a mix of intensity and fun to the group. He may join in on some skipping during activation, but he expects a professional level at training every day.

The centre has all the pieces in place, from the 50-m pool at UBC to the varsity gym where athletes supplement their swimming training with regular weight sessions led by Joe.

Dergousoff, the Christina Lake, B.C., native who made the move from Laval Rouge et Or in Quebec City, is loving the access to training aids and use of “toys” like chutes, resistance cords and power towers.

“I’ve never had an opportunity in a centre before and it’s going well,” said Dergousoff. “It feels like we’re a true team and when people are down we bring each other up.”

“UBC has amazing facilities, we have good people, good coaches and great integrated support team staff. Everybody seems like they want to go forward in the same direction.”

HPC-Vancouver has a long history of producing key members of Canadian teams under previous Head Coach Tom Johnson. Since the centre in Vancouver opened in 1998, it has produced numerous Olympians and international medallists including Martha McCabe, Emily Overholt, Brent Hayden and open water swimmer Richard Weinberger.

“It’s one of the best programs in Canada so I was super excited when they asked me to be a part of it,” Allen said. “I came from a really small club, so I’m getting used to the training because it’s a lot more than I’ve done in the past. They were all super welcoming and the coaches are really supportive of my goals.

“Tom had great success and high-level athletes. They created such a fine history here,” Talbot said. “If I’m able to replicate that in some way with our athletes and our success that would be great. At the same time we want to be more successful than that and be able to move Canadian swimming forward even further.”