Liendo’s success in pool earns Swimmer of the Year Award
There was a time when Joshua Liendo was an unknown on the international stage.
Following a banner year where the 20-year-old from Markham, Ont., earned medals at both the world championships and Commonwealth Games, people are taking notice.
“I think I’ve established myself and I’ve done things,” said Liendo, who trained with coach Ryan Mallette at the High Performance Centre – Ontario last year. “You can see people kind of planning for racing against me now. My competitors, they know who I am.”
Liendo’s achievements have been recognized by Swimming Canada naming him the Olympic Program’s Male Swimmer of the Year for 2022.
“It’s a huge honour,” said Liendo, the Junior Swimmer of the Year in 2021. “Being named to something like this is a very humbling experience.”
At the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Liendo claimed bronze in the 100-metre freestyle and in 100-m butterfly. He broke the Canadian record in the 50-m freestyle, finishing fifth.
Liendo was also part of the mixed 4×100-m freestyle relay team that captured silver and broke the Canadian record. He was a member of the men’s 4×100-m freestyle relay team that finished sixth and the men’s 4×100-m medley relay team that finished 11th.
About a month later at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Liendo won gold in the 100-m fly and grabbed bronze in the 50-m freestyle. He was also a member of the 4×100-m freestyle relay and the mixed 4×100-m freestyle relay that took home bronze. Liendo placed sixth in the 50-m butterfly and seventh in the 100-m freestyle.
Mallette said Liendo’s achievements are ahead of schedule.
“He’s fast tracking some things,” he said. “It’s so exciting that he’s been able to do that at a young age and compete against the best people in the world.
“I think his future is so great.”
The world championship bronze in the 100 free was special for Liendo. It was his first medal in a major, international long-course event.
“Being in the final, at one point leading the race, but just being in that fight . . . showed that I could be competitive on the world stage,” he said, “To do it at the world championships was a special moment. Just me taking that next step.”
Liendo finished just 0.13 of a second behind world record holder David Popovici of Romania.
“Just showing that I can be competitive with the best in the world, it’s a confidence boost,” he said. “It also gives me something to work towards, to try and get to the top of the podium the next time.
“I can just get up and race them.”
Liendo competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, then won three medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25-m) in Abu Dhabi.
Even with his success, his learning curve continues.
“It starts getting more detailed,” said Liendo, who is attending the University of Florida. “You’ve got to look at different things now. I’ve got to pinpoint what I want to change.
“You’ve got to start looking at details and strategy and how you want to swim a race, certain aspects of your stroke. Be a student of the sport.”
Always fast off the blocks, Liendo is working on improving his fitness so he has the strength to hold on to the early lead he often builds in races.
“I’m working on my endurance and working on the back end of my races,” he said. “That’s something I’m trying to improve.”
With success comes expectations.
“You’re expected to perform, right?” he said. “I’ve already been competitive at this level. I just want to continue to be competitive.
“If success means pressure, I’ll gladly welcome the pressure.”
Liendo, who spent part of his childhood growing up in Trinidad, also is comfortable with his role of being one of the few elite Black swimmers.
“I get some messages from kids or parents, telling me kids look up to me,” he said. “I feel that because every time I step on the blocks I’m a role model.
“Someone is looking at me and saying, ‘Hey, this guy is like me.’ I want to do well, being that role model.”
Mallette said Liendo has become the leader of a group of young Canadian male swimmers.
“He sets a good example,” Mallette said. “It’s all positive reinforcement with his teammates. He’s always supportive of everybody.
“He is a fantastic athlete. He’s going to make people around him better. His future is really bright.”
Liendo is getting ready for the 2023 Bell Canadian Swimming Trials at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre March 28-April 2 in hopes to make the team heading to the World Aquatics Championships in Japan this summer. He knows the level of competition will be higher as swimmers prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“I know it’s going to be faster,” he said. “It’s going to be a fight.
“Paris is the big goal. I want to take care of the world championships, then I’ll have lots of time to focus and train for the Olympics.”
Liendo is just beginning to reap the benefits from his hard work and sacrifice.
He’s anxious to face the challenges ahead.
“The more you improve, the harder it gets to take the next step,” he said. “I’m willing to put in the work and the effort and focus to get to that next step each time.
“I’ve learned so much, not just in swimming, about myself. I’m just going to continue to learn and I’m happy with where I am right now.”