Local swimmer heading to national stage

    Young Donovan Taylor’s not a kid anymore.
    Taylor, who turned 13 on June 30, is in Montreal to swim at the 2007 Age Group Nationals starting tomorrow in events he worked over the last year to qualify for.
    “The meet I’m actually anxious for. I’m not nervous,” Taylor said last week. “This is a huge meet, and I really don’t expect much. . . .
    “I just want to come home with some knowledge of what it’s like at a huge competition,” he reasoned.
    Taylor will compete in the 50m, 100m, and 200m backstroke, as well as the 200m and 400m IM. He turned down a chance to compete in a freestyle event—only being able to participate in five over the four days there.
    He flew out of Winnipeg early Monday morning and is spending his time with a team from Kenora. They are rooming at McGill University, and Taylor is as excited for the trip as the meet.
    He’s never been to Montreal, and despite attending several high-profile meets in southern Ontario, had never been on a jet plane before Monday.
    He said he’s looking forward to speaking French conversationally (he’s a French Immersion student), as well as seeing downtown Montreal and taking in some of the classic architecture in the older parts of the city.
    “I’m sure there’s things I want to do that my mother wouldn’t allow me,” he joked.
    His mother and coach, Dawnn, won’t be attending the meet as she’ll be working in some horse shows south of the border during the week. But she plans to keep in touch.
    “I’ll be paying a big cell phone bill when it’s all done, I’m sure,” she said, and is as proud as a parent—or coach—could be.
    “Words escape me,” she admitted. “I get teary thinking about it—not just because he’s a good swimmer, but his dedication.”
    She said not only was it difficult for her son to spend so much time training alone after the local Aquanauts swim club closed up shop for the summer, but he fought a number of injuries this past season, including a broken foot, torn quadricep muscle, and a fractured hip.
    “A lot of people would’ve given up,” Dawnn Taylor said. “There’s a lot of 12-, 13-year-old kids lying in bed at five in the morning.”
    She’s been taking her son to the pool at the Memorial Sports Centre every morning for five km of swimming in the weeks leading up to the meet to train for the big stage.
    “He’s never once said, ‘No, I’m not going to swim’ or ‘No, I’m not going to go.’”
    For Donovan Taylor, he’s fulfilling a dream he’s had for the past few years in his still-young swimming career.
    “I really just started to think about it because when I really got up there in rank, I really wanted to compete with those kids from Winnipeg [and] Alberta,” and all across Canada, he said.
    “And as soon as I’m back here, if I don’t have any other meets, I’m going to have a huge two-litre bottle of Coke,” he chuckled.
    One of the personal highlights for the end of the swim season for Taylor is the end of his strict diet of no fried food, pop, or candy.
    The meet itself will have its share of changes for Taylor—it will be held in an outdoor pool and he hasn’t swam competitively outside before. It also will be the first event he’s been in that requires a drug test to compete.
    He’ll be using the same facilities that hosted the 2005 World Aquatic Championships—and the stage will be unlike anything else he’s been to.
    “This is big. This is nationals, man,” his mother said. “The big thing is, enjoy it and learn from it.
    “No big expectations, just enjoy it.”
    Taylor has got a lot to look forward to, but admitted there was one thing he didn’t like about the tournament: “I don’t have my mother to help me [there],” he remarked.
    “Yeah, no mom, no coach,” she replied.
    “Dang! No parental guidance!” he joked.
    His mother beamed. “I couldn’t be prouder if you were my own son,” she laughed.