Behind-the-scenes work for Canadian swimmers earns TPASC leaders award
The Toronto Pam Am Sports Centre was one of the leaders in helping the swim community get back to training and ready to represent Canada during the pandemic.
Two of the individuals behind that endeavour were Bob Singleton and Rafael Torre and for that they are being honoured with the Swimming Canada President’s Award for 2021.
“I’m actually humbled,” said Singleton, managing director of TPASC, which is home to Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre – Ontario, and hosted last year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Trials. “But I will say that it’s a team effort. It isn’t one person or two people; it’s the whole team.”
The president of Swimming Canada has sole discretion to select this award, which is open to athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, sports leaders and builders who have made a significant and profound impact on swimming in Canada.
“Swimming Canada has been a really important partner in this facility since we opened and we’re very proud of the role we’ve played not just in the success of the past Olympics but just being in the building,” added Torre, director of sport and recreation. “Honoured and very proud of the results and the program they’re running out of here.”
The efforts by the TPASC to get high performance swimmers back in the water and in training, with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, were paramount.
“Our community – our students, the community at large, the high performance identified athletes – we wanted to at least allow them to train,” explained Singleton, who was TPASC’s first hire in April of 2014. “Rafael did the heavy lifting, working at a safety plan so that these athletes could continue to train and get ready for the Olympics and do it in a safe way.”
Singleton is loath to use the word difficult in describing the enterprise; challenging may be more like it.
“I want to emphasize that we have a very dedicated team here,” he pointed out. “We have four directors and myself and we met every day during (the peak of COVID-19 restrictions) and we would talk through it. How would we safely do this? And we would document it; Rafael would communicate with Swimming Canada and they had their own safety plan as well and we would merge the two plans and everyone would agree and move forward.
“Persistent might be the word. We were persistent in finding a solution.”
Torre, who believes he was employee number three in 2014, expanded on those challenges.
“I have fellow directors who have a really good eye on how we put our plans in place so the building can be safe,” he noted. “We have a really strong partnership with Swim Ontario and a very strong partnership with Swimming Canada. So this is not just about Olympic Trials and the racing, it’s also about providing a safe training environment for high performance. It really was a collaborative effort working together as a group to put together plans for their daily training and how you transition from daily training to actually competing under all of the provincial and federal and city guidelines that were in place.
“Then when we got to racing, putting together a schedule leading up to trials and then post-trials … it was pretty awesome.”
“The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre has been such a strong partner of Swimming Canada,” said Swimming Canada President Mary C. Lyne. “As leaders, Rafael and Bob have been exceptional advocates in keeping their world-class facility open, available and, more importantly, safe, for our High Performance Centre athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the competition calendar continued to evolve through 2021, TPASC also temporarily welcomed HPC-Vancouver swimmers when the UBC Aquatic Centre required maintenance shortly before the rescheduled Trials.
“Rafael, Bob and their team were adaptable to the Olympic Trials being rescheduled multiple times. We could not have pulled off the Olympic Trials without their unwavering support. Their work behind the scenes helped set the stage for our fantastic performances in Tokyo and led to a positive upswing in excitement for Canadian swimming,” Lyne said.
With hopefully the hardest part of navigating the pandemic behind them, both Singleton and Torre – as well as the 63 full-time and some 200 part-time workers – can look forward to breathing just a little easier.
“The words I use to the staff is the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter,” Singleton said. “That’s the way I look at it. Because of COVID, you may look at things moving forward in a slightly different way, which is not a bad thing. For example, we have a work from home policy. I found out we were productive working from home. I’m comfortable with that. We used the COVID experience as a learning experience as well.”
“We have our HPC-Ontario group which we’re really proud of but we also open our doors to other groups,” Torre added. “One of the things we are proud of was our role in keeping the sport of high performance swimming going and getting them to a point that they could get to Tokyo for the Olympics in a good place. We started to concentrate on post-Olympics as well, our pathway athletes and the community at large that loves to swim.
“The overall story of the facility is an incredible success story. We are really proud that our legacy has been successful, not just the medals we’ve won but all the people who visit the facility in a multi-use way.”
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