A great weekend for swimmers

For almost two decades, I have spent the Memorial Day weekend at the Canada Games Complex in Thunder Bay officiating at the Thunderbolts’ swim meet, which attracts swimmers from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba as well as across Northwestern Ontario.
For local swimmers, it is their one meet a season to compete in a 50-metre pool. The racing and strategy is much different that in the shorter 25-metre pool.
It also is the graduation ceremony for many 17- and 18-year-old swimmers from across the region, who will be heading off to colleges and universities this fall.
Some will continue to swim competitively. Others will use the skills and confidence they learned from swimming and apply it to new endeavours.
And those graduating swimmers—the Donovan Taylors, the Michael Balcaens—have become role models for those who are just starting out.
A young swimmer, who only jumped into the pool six weeks ago, told me she couldn’t believe how fast Donovan was—and she hoped that by the time she was 17, she could have the same skills that he possesses in the pool.
I doubt she believed me when I explained to her all the trials and tribulations that an awkward, unco-ordinated swimmer who was eight years old could blossom into a gifted athlete.
Every senior group spawns the hopes of young swimmers below them.
On the deck Sunday morning, a coach from Minneapolis gathered all of his breaststroke swimmers to the side of the pool to watch Takara Martin, an Northwestern Ontario Olympic hopeful, give a lesson in the stroke as she swam the 100-metre race. He pointed out every detail of her smooth precision of the stroke as she led by almost 15 metres in the swim.
And coming up against those senior swimmers who will be leaving is another group. Megan Carlson, whose mother swam with the Aquanauts, is turning heads in Thunder Bay while Jake Wickstrom, at only 14, is making a name for himself while swimming in Dryden.
Both Lyndsi Jo Wilson and Regan Danylchuk, from the local Aquanauts, clearly demonstrated they have the passion and drive to win. And this past weekend, they seemed to have found another dimension to their swimming that drove them to swim faster than ever.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Adam Stromberg seems to have discovered that there are three other strokes beside freestyle that he can use to pick up hardware at meets.
He has become a threat to swimmers much older than himself.
The May Invitational is both a graduating meet for the older swimmers and a coming-out meet for a whole new group of younger talented swimmers in our region.
Today, swimmers from the northwest are swimming faster than many of their predecessors did a decade ago. It is testimony to the passions that their coaches have instilled in them, and the improved coaching skills of both paid and volunteer coaches.
A swimmer’s success lies in the belief that they can compete both within the region and against swimmers from across Canada.
It was a great weekend for swimmers.

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