Taylor battles bug, competition at national meet

Dan Falloon

In one sense, the fact local swimmer Donovan Taylor made only one final at the Canadian Age Group Championships in Winnipeg was a bit of a disappointment.
Before the competition, Taylor, along with mother and coach Dawnn, had listed a handful of events where cracking the top eight wasn’t an unreasonable goal.
But between that goal-setting and the competition itself, a virus struck the 16-year-old Taylor, leaving him and his mom scrambling for a legal remedy in the days leading up to his first race.
“The list of unacceptable drugs is very long, so you had to really pay attention to what you’re taking,” Dawnn Taylor explained.
“The best shot we had was Tylenol Cold pills,” she noted. “He took those.”
The struggle did lead to some good as Taylor was forced to focus intently on his stroke with his power and endurance tapped.
“Just because I didn’t have that endurance, we worked a lot on technique, trying to make it as efficient as we could,” remarked the teen, who still was feeling some of the effects of the virus Monday.
“We spent a couple hours with another coach we know to work on the backstroke because that was pretty ugly,” he added.
A special videographer also attended the meet, and was able to break down the most minute details of Taylor’s strokes, including such statistics as their speed and angle, providing a valuable analytical and training resource.
Taylor was able to make it through the opening days of competition taking on the virus as best he could, falling off his personal bests by just a couple of seconds in his two events last Wednesday—the 100m butterfly (1:03.04) and the 200m backstroke (2:21.06).
But he took a turn for the worse on Thursday.
A sluggish performance in the 400m I.M. (5:10.00, which is about 14 seconds off of his seed time), one of the events where a final was a distinct possibility, prompted his mom to find an alternative medication for the virus.
She returned with allergy medicine to take along with the Extra Strength Tylenol.
“Thursday, he crashed and burned. The virus really kicked in,” Dawnn Taylor recalled.
“He had a miserable 400m I.M.,” she added. “[He] went back to the hotel, laid down at 2 p.m. and did not get up until 6 a.m. the next morning, and he did not ask to eat.
“When the continual grazer does not eat, coach knows we’re in trouble,” she remarked.
The pair nearly packed it in at that point, but with some determination on his part and the Allegra starting to work a bit of magic, Taylor returned to the pool Friday and matched his personal best (26.14) in the 50m freestyle.
He then finished the 100m backstroke in 1:04.96 on Saturday.
“I wanted to finish strong. I wanted to come back with something to show,” he stressed.
“I just kind of kicked myself in the [butt] and said, ‘Get your act together.’”
Taylor also was helped by his schedule, as he only had to race the 50m freestyle on Friday and then 100m backstroke on Saturday before finishing with two events Sunday.
He also had to pull double duty on the first two days of the event.
“It was such a good wake-up call, that 400 I.M., and I knew I had one event per day,” Taylor said.
“It was the one 50m free and the one 100m back, and those were just sprints.”
Sunday brought the 200m I.M., where Taylor was determined to make a stand in order to salvage his trip, which he did—advancing to the final and eventually placing seventh with a time of 2:17.26.
“Yesterday [Sunday] he got up and he said, ‘I’ve lost four days of this week, and I can’t lose it,’” noted Dawnn Taylor.
“‘I’m either going to die in the pool or I’m going to do something,’” he had vowed.
Taylor was on pace for a medal in first half of the race, but let it slip away in the second portion.
“The worst part about the 200 I.M. was that I had second all the way through the first half, and then breaststroke and free—,” he trailed off, later adding that his endurance was drained by the second half of the race.
Taylor then finished the week with a time of 28.43 in the 50m butterfly.
With his results placed in the context of the illness, though, Dawnn Taylor was pleased that her son was able to come back and make a final in one of his events, adding he should have learned a sporting and life lesson in the process.
“In a way, we came back, and it was kind of disappointing, but if you look at being that ill and coming out seventh during nationals—let’s just put it this way, it has not happened to an Aquanaut before,” she stressed, noting that no member of the Fort Frances Aquanauts had made a national final before.
“We certainly would have liked to have had some fantastic results, but seventh at nationals is not too shabby,” she reasoned.
“It was a really good learning experience to know that sometimes you have to overcome obstacles that are holding you back.
“Michael Phelps isn’t going to say, ‘I’m not going swimming today because I have a head cold,’” she concluded.
Meanwhile, the season isn’t yet done for Taylor, who will be amping up again with Aquanaut teammate Levi Rittau for the Ontario Summer Games in Sudbury from Aug. 11-13.
He was thrilled to get another chance to reassert himself in the water so soon, and his mom expects he’ll be closer to his normal self by the time that meet rolls around.
“The immune system will be up after fighting this off, and he can get back in and prepare for the next couple weeks,” Dawnn Taylor explained.