Swimming Canada Olympic Trials: Javier Acevedo’s Turbulent Journey to the Olympic Team

Photo Courtesy: Vaughn Ridley/Swimming Canada

By Rick Madge

Javier Acevedo of the Markham Aquatic Club had just finished becoming the first Canadian male to beat the Olympic Qualifying time at these trials (100 Back). And while he was celebrating, you could also tell in the post-race interviews that he was having trouble keeping the emotion out of his voice. This had been a tough year.

In 2012, Javier went to swim with Coach Matt Bell of the incredibly strong Ajax Swim Club, and he fit in right away. His technique improved, he worked harder, and he got fast. By December of that year, as a 14-year old, he went 3:59.97 for the 400 Free (Short Course), and 57.95 for the 100 Back.

Then, over the next few years he continued to improve at a dramatic pace, showing versatility in all strokes, and blazing speed in the short races. By the summer of 2015, he was world class, capturing a Silver in the 50 Back (25.46) at the World Junior Championships, and an 8th in the 100.

By the time the new season started in September, 2015, everything was definitely on track for the Olympic Trials. In November he broke the Canadian Age Group Record for 15-17 yr olds in the 200 Back (SC) with a 1:54.86. And then he went to the Dubai and Qatar World Cups, where he finished 9th in the 50 Back and 13th in the 100. Everything was still on track.

And then in November, that changed dramatically.

The official Swimming Canada announcement was, “High performance coach Matt Bell has been suspended by Swimming Canada after he was charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and four counts of luring a person under 18 years.”

Coach Bell had enough time to sit down with Javier and suggest he go swim with Coach Rob Novak at the nearby Markham Aquatic Club. The powerhouse Ajax Swim Club was closing shop.

Javier took a few days off to absorb everything that had happened. In his words, what happened to Coach Bell was just there, and he guessed it was justified and needed to happen.  And then he picked up and moved to Markham.

Surprisingly, just a few weeks later, Javier broke the Canadian Age Group Record in the 100 Back (SC) with a 51.63, and then 2 weeks later tied the Senior Canadian Record in the 50 Back (SC) with a 23.90. It was almost as if nothing had happened. But Javier said those first few weeks were really hard, and he was really emotional. He had lost someone who he considered a role model and an idol.

So while Javier was still dealing with the intense emotions, he resolved to fight back and not let it affect his dreams. It speaks volumes that he was able to do that so well.

Javier didn’t talk much about the months that followed the move. Just that the next thing he knew, he was at the Trials and had qualified for the Olympic team. He’s obviously very happy, but it’s also clear that the pain hasn’t gone away.

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Paul Pottinger

    The career road traveled by an elite athlete such as is full of unknown twists and turns. Javier Acevedo has shown that he has the self discipline, mental toughness and will to win by staying focused on achieving his Olympic dream despite the unfortunate and uncontrollable circumstances that have forced him to deal with the adjustments involved with this recent change of swim clubs and coaches.

Author: Rick Madge

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