Last December, I competed in the biggest meet of my swimming career to date: The Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou, China. I qualified for this meet at the 2018 Trials in Edmonton where I finished third in the 200m backstroke. Before this race, the meet was not going as well as I would have wanted it to; I was not dropping any time nor was I swimming to the level I was expecting of myself. However, I trusted in my training and powered through to the 4th day of competition, the day of my best event: the 200m backstroke. I had the best swim of my season and dropped a little under 2 seconds. Come a few months later, I am on a plane to a totally different continent about to represent my country for the first time on the world stage.
China was one of the best experiences of my life. Everything from the venue to the team to the atmosphere was incredible. The team and I arrived 4 days before the start of the competition, so we had a little time to get used to the 13-hour time change. During those training days, we would usually go to pool twice a day to work on last minute touch ups with Team Canada’s video analyst, or to simply maintain our aerobic system. All the participating athletes were split up into three different hotels. This meant that I got to eat meals and take the shuttle to the pool with world record holders like Katinka Hosszu and Chad le Clos. Being surrounded by such world class athletes really motivated me to push myself so that one day, maybe, I could reach their level too. My first event was the 4x50m medley relay where I swam the freestyle leg. Walking into the ready rooms was certainly a surreal experience. Firstly, there were 2 ready rooms: the first being the common area where four heats of swimmers would wait to be called up and the second being the one right behind the pool where we could hear the crowd going wild in the back. When we came out for the first time, my heart skipped a beat; I had trained in the competition pool for the past 5 days but the energy that the crowd and the athletes brought to the deck was on a totally different level. I swam a best time, but I personally feel like I could have swum faster. Next up was the 200m back and the 200m IM. I was particularly excited to swim these races because they were my best events and I had been training extremely hard for them. Unfortunately, I didn’t swim as fast as I would have wanted to. However, I learned a lot, and I will apply my new knowledge to my training as well as my racing. Finally, on the last day of competition, I had the 4x100m medley relay; I was so ready to swim fast. Once again, I was swimming the freestyle leg. In fact, I am more of a mid-distance backstroker/IMer, so this event was out of my comfort zone. However, I needed to perform for my team and I was minded that I was going to swim the fastest 100m freestyle I had ever swum. When I turned around to look at the score board, I was so excited; our relay had qualified for the final. At night, the energy in the ready room was insane. I was surrounded by the best swimmers in the world and I was about to compete against them. Walking out and hearing my team’s name being announced was surreal. The energy from the crowd was probably doubled from what it had been during prelims; my team was ready to go. I swam about the same time and we ended up finishing 7th. All in all, my racing experience in Hangzhou taught me so much about my racing strategies and my mindsets before races.
Although this meet was bigger than anything I had ever participated in, I feel that Pointe-Claire prepared me extremely well for the challenge. The feeling I got walking through the athlete’s entrance was no different than when I walked into AAAs, Easterns or Trials for the first time. I was reminded by the head coach that this meet was like any other meet: we were there to swim fast. I was looked at as a competitor and was expected to always believe that I deserved to be there. The support from Team Canada and the staff was amazing, and I could not have asked for a better first senior national team experience.
The thing I would like younger swimmers to remember and take out of this is that this opportunity is possible to anyone. I was never the fastest in my group in Bout de Chou, I barely had my AAs when I was 11, and I struggled to qualify for AAA when I was 12. However, I always had an undying love for the sport; I pushed through and always reminded myself of my goals. Furthermore, I was not having a great season last year, but I was hopeful that Trials would be different. Finally, it does not matter that you are not the fastest in your group, that you do not have a standard when all your other friends do, or that you are not having the greatest start to your meet, all that matters is that you stay positive and always strive to be the version of yourself.