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Swimming Canada – VANCOUVER – They came to Vancouver as 14 of the most talented male swimmers in Canada.

After an intensive eight-day training camp, they left forged into the nucleus of a men’s team that has expectations of success on the international stage.

The national women’s team showed their talent and depth by winning six medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Swimming Canada is now focused on developing strategies to enhance the performance of the men’s team.

Since many of the nation’s top men are spread across the country, Swimming Canada decided bringing them together for a camp would benefit them both in and out of the pool. Not only would the camp have them train together, it would allow them to get to know each other on a personal level while building bonds of understanding and trust.

Martyn Wilby, Swimming Canada’s Senior Coach, Olympic Program, said many of the athletes who participated will not only be racing at this summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, but at the 2020 Olympics and beyond.

“Hopefully, if this is the core group we are moving forward with, they are going to develop that camaraderie, so when we got to an international meet there isn’t that feeling out process,” said Wilby.

“You already know your teammates. You are already part of the team before you get on the plane.”

Although swimming is largely an individual sport the concept of team is still important for success.

“You swim more than for yourself,” said Jeremy Bagshaw, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Victoria. “You’re swimming for the rest of the guys around you and who you are training with. When you train with them every day you get a better feeling of that kind of camaraderie that has kind of been lacking.”

It’s about “knowing that other people have been putting in the same work as you and you are working together,” said the 25-year-old freestyler, who made his first senior national team in 2015. “Getting to work together is a big part of it and helps moving forward.”

The camp was held at the new UBC Aquatic Centre prior to the recent Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet. The sessions incorporated relay and individual training along with team-building exercises such as yoga, a ropes course, mental performance workshops and a talk delivered by former Olympic team member Scott Dickens.

Richard Funk, who first made a senior national team in 2013, said the camp was beneficial in learning new training methods and getting to know other members of the team.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been on a national team we’ve got a group of guys together just for the sole purpose of training together and building some camaraderie,” said the Edmonton breaststroker who now trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “I met a lot of new guys I probably normally won’t have known. From that standpoint it was great.”

Funk also was able to pass on some of his experience to the younger swimmers.

“I think that’s what I got out of it, just passing on what I’ve learned,” he said.

At 19 years old, Josiah Binnema is a newcomer to the men’s team. The camp gave him a chance to rub shoulders with veterans and watch their training methods.

“You’re seeing people who have been to the Olympics or been on these teams so many times,” said the butterfly swimmer from Prince George, B.C. “The sort of training they do every day, that’s the sort of training you need to do if you are going to get to that level and swim with them.”

Markus Thormeyer said functioning as a team buildings success in the relays.

“Relay takeovers, it’s a big part knowing the person,” said the 19-year-old Delta. B.C., native who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver. “Bringing everyone together, you’re just not swimming for yourself, you’re swimming for the team.

“You build trust with people. Part of it is training the mechanics. Part of it is training the emotional passion.”

Wilby pointed to Michelle Toro as an example of someone putting team ahead of themselves.

Toro swam in the morning to help the women’s 4×100-m freestyle relay team reach the finals at Rio. She then cheered on her teammates to a bronze medal in the evening.

“She bought into what her role was on the relay,” said Wilby. “I think the women at the Olympics did an amazing job of that. They all knew their roles and they went about it.”

Veteran coach Tom Johnson said the camp allowed the men to lay a foundation to build future success.

“They know each other on a different level now as opposed to just knowing each other in the competitive environment,” said Johnson, head coach of the High Performance Centre – Vancouver.

“Out of that comes an identity. We’ve established those base lines (that) underpin where we are going to go in the future. The values and the beliefs and the behaviours have been established and that’s how we are going to go forward.”

Thormeyer said he left the camp feeling different from when he started.

“The biggest thing for me is we became a men’s team instead of a just a bunch of individuals,” he said.

Pictures of the team’s experience in Vancouver can be seen by clicking the following link:


Nathan White

Senior manager, Communications, Swimming Canada

Gestionnaire supérieur des communications, Natation Canada 

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