Pool pleasers

Jeff Carlson and Aiden Farrell didn’t set any world records, but they brought the swimming world of Northwestern Ontario a little closer together.
Carlson, from the Nakokita Swim Club in Atikokan, is your typical 18-year-old competitive swimmer—if, by typical, you mean someone who only can use half their body to navigate up and down the pool.
The young man with the humble nature and winning smile normally is confined to a wheelchair due to the ravages that spina bifida has unleashed upon him. Because of his physical limitations from the waist down, he is left with only his upper body to produce his momentum that carries him through the water.
But he’ll thank you to save your tears for someone who needs them. Life gave this young man lemons, and he’s made not only lemonade but planted a whole new orchard in the process.
His positive attitude and technical prowess led him to crack the four-minute mark in Sunday morning’s 200m backstroke at the Aquanauts’ spring meet here—shattering his previous personal best by more than six seconds.
Six seconds is phenomenal by any swimmer’s standards. For a swimmer who easily could have thrown in the towel instead of getting back in the water, it’s even more amazing.
Then there was Farrell, with the Goldfins team out of Red Lake. A five-year-old no bigger than a hiccup, he was pulled out of the pool halfway through the 25m backstroke event Saturday because he was struggling so much (his safety was deemed to be at risk by meet officials).
But there he was again Sunday morning, standing as tall as a five-year-old can stand, waiting to blast off from Lane 2 in the 25m freestyle race. His four competitors beat him handily to the finish, but there was no questioning who the real winner was.
Farrell stroked, clawed, paddled, and fought for all he was worth throughout what seemed like an endless lap. But there was not an ounce of quit in him and as he touched the wall to complete his journey, you almost could see him float out of the pool with the thrill of what he had just achieved.
Just as memorable as Carlson and Farrell’s endeavours was the crowd reaction during their races.
From the bleachers up above to the swimmers and coaches around the pool, every team and its supporters joined their voices in unison to encourage the popular pair onward to the finish. It actually gave me chills, and hopefully gave all a clearer perspective.
At its core, sports isn’t about medals, trophies, or how many column inches an athlete gets in a newspaper, or how many seconds of air time on radio or television.
It’s about the personal and athletic development of every single competitor—and certainly that rings even more true at the amateur level.
Perseverance, tireless training, and a commitment to drive yourself to be the best you can be every chance you get should be the main priorities of all those involved.
Carlson and Farrell sent a valuable message this weekend. Let’s hope it was heard loud and clear.
• • •
The Fort Frances Curling Club will hold its semi-annual meeting today at 7 p.m., with all curlers and those interested in joining the sport invited to attend.
The main issue to be discussed will be a potential dues increase to help offset rising utility costs related to lighting and heating the curling club.
I don’t know about warmth, but you could have nuclear-powered bulbs shining on the ice surface and I still couldn’t hit the button if I delivered the rock from the 12-foot.
• • •
The final whistle is approaching for those wishing to play in the Borderland Soccer Association this year. Registration wraps up tomorrow (May 15) and anyone wanting to sign up still can get their name in at Taggs Source for Sports.
The cost is $70 for both men and women, and all players aged 14 and over are welcome to join.
• • •
There’s still plenty of room for teams wanting to get on board for the Fort Frances slo-pitch league season.
As of Monday, only 24 teams were confirmed for the league, which began exhibition play last night and will run its pre-season for the next two weeks.
Final registration is set for May 22, with a full-season schedule to be released at noon the following day. The regular season kicks off May 26.
Registration is $265 per team, and anyone interested can contact Megan Ross at the Memorial Sports Centre (274-3494).
• • •
He wasn’t kicking back and relaxing—in fact, he wasn’t kicking anything or anyone this weekend.
Jared Catholique-Bruyere of Fort Frances took a break from his undefeated competitive judo season this past weekend, bypassing the Eastern Manitoba Championships in Winnipeg to attend a hockey camp in British Columbia.
Considering he’s pocketed Canada Winter Games and junior provincial gold medals this year, as well as a slew of other tournament titles, I think we can cut him some slack.

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