Like all other swimmers, para swimmers have to practice, work hard and compete, as the Canada Games is often a step to the Pan Am Games and to the Olympics.
Training for this summer’s Canada Games are four remarkable young swimmers. lead by their coach. The team, consisting of swimmers Matt Miller, Josh Pereira Robyn Sliva and Victoria Scott, is coached by Karen Williams from the Para Storm Swim Club.
Williams, who has as helped swimmers go to the Senior National level including Team Canada Pan American Games and the 2015 British Para-swimming Championships, is a role model for the swim community.
“Our athletes are truly remarkable young people and the energy they bring is almost addictive,” Williams says.
“Before I was born,” says swimmer Scott, my parents found out I was disabled and they found out what it was so they knew I wouldn’t be able to walk like everyone else.”
Scott describes how her parents bought a house with a yard for her, and “…made the backyard big enough for a pool,” she says.
“As soon as I could and was able to, they put me in the pool and they started to teach me and get me comfortable to the water and ever since then I’m still in love with the water and how it makes me feel,” explains Scott.
Competing at the Canada Games is a tremendous opportunity for Manitoba’s para swimmers, and for all the other athletes who make the cut.
“Recruiting athletes, selecting athletes and coaches and training athletes rests with each individual provincial/territorial sport organization,” explains Joel Allard, Communications Coordinator with the Canada Games Council.
“The CGC has no influence or authority over the selection process instituted by a provincial/territorial jurisdiction,” he adds.
For those athletes lucky enough to compete in the Canada Games, Allard describes the common experience felt by all those involved.
“[Athletes must do] a lot of practice – the Canada Games are the nation’s largest multi-sport event for developing athletes,” he says.
For coach Williams, the significance for young athletes competing at the Canada Games can’t be understated.
“Canada Summer Games means an opportunity for our athletes to be part of a much bigger team, make memories and experiences, feel the pride to represent your province, learn from CSG their potential and most importantly, make life long connections with other athletes,” Williams says.
“I swim four times a week for an hour and a half for three days and the fourth it’s for two hours,“ Scott explains. “I practice all strokes and in practice all together I do about 1500 meters, in competitions I do 100 metres.”
Coach Williams says, the journey these para swimmers have embarked on is not an easy one; and that’s something she is attuned to.
“I truly enjoy being part of the athletes’ exploration, determination, successes and set backs. As each of our clubs athletes physical needs differ greatly, it is exciting and challenging to program for their individual requirements,” Williams says.
“As their coach, I need to stay a couple of steps ahead of their every growing and changing needs, it’s not easy, and that is another thing I love about coaching at Para Storm Swimming.”
Swim Manitoba states, “Manitoba Team is selected based on minimum entrance criteria. The Team’s primary objective is to identify top swimmers in Manitoba and foster a Manitoba Team spirit. Manitoba Team swimmers may qualify for special training opportunities, funding scholarships, selection to ID camps, Senior Team Tour and Western and Canada Games teams. Swimmers are expected to follow a year round training program with a long course competition focus.”
Williams adds, “We have fun, we laugh a lot at practice and truly the team enjoys being together, in and out of the water. We set goals throughout the year, teach swimming, nutrition, mindfulness and being a good teammate/citizen. I think the closeness of our team motivates each of them to do their best everyday no matter what they are doing, school, home, swimming, community.”
Allard attests to the importance of the Canada Games to many athletes. “[On] average, approximately 40% of Canada’s roster at the Olympics and Pan Am Games are made up of Canada Games alumni.” Allard says.
Swimmer Victoria Scott competed at the Pan Am Games, as well.
“Because CGC does not recruit, select or train athletes for the Canada Games, CGC works with National Sport Organizations (in this case Swimming Canada) to develop a technical package that outlines the events, rules, team sizes, and ages among other things,” Allard explains.
Through its Swim National Manitoba High Performance Program, Swim Manitoba encourages the continued development of elite swimming in Manitoba.
The Program Goals are: “To encourage Manitoba swimmers to perform to their fullest potential at major competitions, to elevate the performances of Manitoba swimmers to an international level, to provide a program that allows elite Manitoba swimmers to remain in the province for the duration of their swimming careers, and to provide technical and financial support to allow elite swimmers to reach their full potential.”
Scott says the thrill of competing is like nothing else.
“Success is important because it shows you got somewhere you want to be and it makes you feel good that you spent your time well and, productive and that you weren’t just sitting around dreaming of doing it,” says Scott.
“We support one another’s successes and struggles, definitely you can’t do it in your own,” adds Williams.