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Swimmers of all ages broke records and barriers at weekend championships

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By Rita Mingo

World records fell like spring raindrops over the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre, as the 2024 Speedo Canadian Masters Swimming Championships unfolded this past weekend.

New world standards and Canadian records made for an entertaining and successful championship. There were six world records set, including four by Canadians and two by U.S. swimmers.

Peter McKinnon, out of the Etobicoke Olympium Masters Aquatic Club (EOMAC), set his world record in the men’s 50-m backstroke in the 60-64 age-group. He swam the race in a time of 29.29.

“I was going to be close,” said the 60-year-old, who competed in four races and three relays on the weekend. “I swam this race about a month ago at Ontario championships and I missed by about three-one-hundredths so I knew I was in the ballpark. I just needed to clean up a few things. Have a better start and a better turn and I was successful there, so that was good.”

McKinnon got back into swimming at age 30 and has competed at Masters championships ever since.

“I love working out. I enjoy the process of getting fit,” he said. “I enjoy racing against the younger people and beating the younger people in their 20s and 30s, that’s a good goal. Swimming faster than I did five years ago.”

Also among the world record-setters was Sebastian Paulins from the Brantford Masters, a star during his swim career at Western University who claimed three records in the 25-29 category: the men’s 800-m free, the 400 free and the 1,500 free.

There were 39 Canadian Masters records set, including seven by Cathy Merritt of Swim Ontario Masters in the 70-74 age group.

A number of individuals pocketed multiple medals, one of whom is Karine Blouin, who proved that she can more than hold her own in spite of a rare genetic disease.

The 31-year-old copped five gold medals in all five individual freestyle events in the 30-34 category, even more remarkable given neurological issues she have affected her ability to walk.

“I’m really happy,” said Blouin, out of the Club Natation Nataqui in Amqui, Que. “I wanted to prove that I can swim like anyone else, that I can be fast like anyone else. I’m fast and I’m winning and it’s really fun.”

One of the better young swimmers in Quebec, she was diagnosed with dopa-responsive dystonia in her 20s, a condition that involves involuntary muscle contractions and tremors. Yet she never stopped swimming.

“I knew that moving was the most important thing to do,” she pointed out. Medication has since improved her condition.

“Every day is better than the last day,” the first time Masters entrant admitted. “Being here is a really good thing, physically and mentally. It’s incredible. I’m seeing people here, like, wow, I want to be like them when I’m older.”

The oldest competitor was John Monne, a spry 94 out of EOMAC; the youngest, and there were several, were 18.

In all, 580 swimmers took part in the competition: 287 females and 293 males. Out of the 99 clubs, the largest contingent belonged to Ontario’s Middlesex Swimming, which encompasses London, St. Mary’s and Stratford, with 42 entrants. Middlesex finished with the second most team points, behind Technosport Masters out of Ottawa. EOMAC was third.

Technosport Mastesr will receive banners as the highest scoring Canadian club, and highest scoring Canadian club with 15 to 40 swimmers registered in the competition. The highest scoring Canadian club with 14 or fewer swimmers registered was C.N. Montreal Nord. And the Canadian club with a minimum of four swimmers that had the highest average number of points per swimmer in individual events was C.N. Nataqui.

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