By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
SHERBROOKE, Canada, August 4. AS the Canadian National team cheered on their final swimmers in Barcelona, the future of Canadian swimming was gaining some great experience back on home soil. Today marked the first day of swimming at the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Canada Games is a multi-sport games for athletes 18 and under: the athletes represent their home provinces and experience village-living not unlike the Olympics. Of course, there are usually only two different languages being spoken (English and French) and village life in one’s home country is not quite the culture shock it is at the Olympic Games. But Canada Games is still a very important stepping stone for young Canadian athletes, especially the swimmers. Many of the athletes who represented Canada in Barcelona or last summer at the Olympics swam at Canada Games early in their career.
Records crashed down on the first night of competition. Team Ontario took gold in both of this evening’s relays. In the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay, the team of Victoria Chan, Kennedy Goss, Esraa Abdel-Khalik and Selin Ozturk destroyed the old Canada Games record of 8:20.97, touching first in 8:14.35. The previous record, also held by Ontario, included two swimmers who went on to swim in both the Beijing and London Olympic Games for Canada.
The Ontario men followed suit, and the team of Teddy Kalp, Oliver Straszynski, David Riley and Tristan Cote shaved seven seconds off the Canada Games record, previously held by Team Alberta. Team Ontario finished in 7:28.28, just ahead of Alberta and British Columbia.
In the men’s 800 freestyle, 16-year old Teddy Kalp from Ontario won gold in 8:11.77, just ahead of Alberta’s Jonathon Brown in 8:12.51. Both men were under the old Canada Games Record of 8:30.18, which was held by none other than Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, who just earned two medals at the World Championships in Barcelona.
The top two finishers in the women’s 1500 freestyle were also under the old championship record time, but the gold medal and new record went to Manitoba’s Breanne Siwicki, who touched well ahead of Ontario’s Caitlin Hodge, 17:03.68 and 17:13.90, respectively.
This competition also includes athletes with disabilities, and oftentimes in swimming, it is the para-athletes who make the difference regarding which province will come out on top at the end of the meet. The event featured today was the 200 freestyle S1-S5 category/400 freestyle S6-S13 category, with the winner being chosen based on points.
On the men’s side, Ontario’s Alec Elliot earned the gold medal with his 4:26.91 from the 400 freestyle. Silver medal was awarded to 200 freestyler Dalton Boone of British Columbia, who finished in 2:09.18. In the women’s event, Alicia Crystal Denoon earned yet another gold medal for Ontario, winning with her 400 freestyle time of 5:22.72.
Records fell and Team Ontario took an early lead winning five of six gold medals this evening. The swimming portion of this competition continues through August 8.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M’s first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o