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Swimming Canada – Josiah Binnema knew he had arrived in the big time the first time he stepped on the deck of the competition pool at last year’s FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Due to the diving events at the world championships, the Canadian team had only seen the practice venue. It wasn’t until his first event that the 20-year-old from Prince George, B.C., got to really taste the atmosphere at a major international competition.

“The whole magnitude of it didn’t hit me until I got to the competition venue,” said Binnema. “I remember my first time walking into the competition pool. I was like ‘wow, that’s a whole lot of stands. Wow, there are a lot of people.’

“It was great.”

Carson Olafson remembers the elation he felt as a member of the 4×100-metre freestyle relay team that reached the finals.

“It was the most exciting moment of my life,” said Olafson. “It was an electric moment. It sent tingles throughout my whole body.”

Last year was a trial by fire for Binnema and Olafson. The swimmers, who train at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver, both made their first senior national teams. They will be looking to build on their experiences when they compete at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, beginning April 4.

For Binnema, even attending the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials in Victoria – where he won gold in the 100-m butterfly and silver 50-m fly in personal best times – was surreal. 

“The first day after Trials you see all these big names,” he said. “Suddenly I’m talking to a person who I have only heard their name mentioned on the loud speaker.”

Olafson, who had been a teammate with Binnema on world junior teams, said there’s a different attitude on the senior squad. The junior teams operate with a strict set of rules.

For the senior team “they expect you to go at things at your own pace,” said Olafson, 20, of Chilliwack, B.C. “You have a lot more freedom to get ready in your own way. It’s kind of liberating.”

That freedom comes with more responsibility.

“You have to go to coaches when you want things,” he said. “You have to go to the massage therapists to get the support yourself. They are not going to come to you and do it.”

Olafson overcame adversity to make the world championships team. He had broken his wrist in a cycling accident just six weeks before the Trials.

He healed in time to win bronze medals in the 100-m and 200-m freestyle. What impressed coach Tom Johnson was how Olafson improved this times at the world championships from what he swam at the Trials.

“He exported his domestic performance into the international arena,” said Johnson. “He came out of the experience as a better athlete and a better person.

“He’s more committed. He understands and he’s working really hard since September.”

Besides being part of the relays, Olafson will swim the 200-m freestyle in Australia.

“We are optimistic he is going to be able to really make a difference this time around,” said Johnson. “He looks like, on the basis of how he’s swimming, that’s he’s on track to do some pretty good things.”

Binnema attended three years of university in Edmonton before transferring last year to UBC, where he is taking psychology. He will swim the 50- and 100-m butterfly and 200-m backstroke at the Games.

Johnson said the world championships were a steep learning curve for Binnema. “We’ve taken him and put him through eight months of swimming,” said the veteran coach. “He’s like a deer in the highlights with his eyes wide open.

“You can see him improving every day. He’s responding really well to the training. We’re optimistic he’s going to actually show not only some things in the butterfly but also in the 200-m backstroke.”

Binnema said spending a full year training with fellow national team members at the High Performanc Centre has helped focus his goals.

“When I made the senior team, that’s when I decided I should really seriously pursue swimming,” he said. “That’s what spurred my transfer to UBC.

“I’m in way better shape than I’ve been. I have been working on technique. I’m really excited.”

HPC-Van teammates Binnema, Olafson, Yuri Kisil and Markus Thormeyer could all play a role in the relays at the Commonwealth Games.

Binnema swam in the 4×100-m medley team that finished 12th in Budapest.  He found himself in the water with Olympic team members Javier Acevedo, Richard Funk and Kisil.

“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “These guys have been here so many times. It was just another day for them.

“I think I did really well. It was adding to the experience for international competitions.”

Johnson said the Commonwealth Games will be another step on the road of rebuilding the Canadian men’s relay teams.

“They still have a lot to learn,” said Johnson. “They need more racing experience at the highest end. They are still green as grass.

“They are still going to make mistakes and fall on their heads maybe in some places, but the underpinning of the work and the coaching support they have been given is way stronger than what it was.”

Thormeyer was also part of the 4×100-m freestyle relay team. He said winning a relay medal in Australia would be vindication for all the hard work the team has done.

“It would be really special,” he said. “I have worked alongside those guys, going through the hardest sets together with them.

“Being able to share that with them would be an absolutely amazing experience.”

The full team list can be found here:

Nathan White Senior manager, Communications, Swimming Canada Gestionnaire supérieur des communications, Natation Canada AUS # (03/25-04/24): +61 0431 469 380 t. +1 613-260-1348 x2002 | m. +1 613-866-7946 | This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.| Ce courriel est confidentiel. Toute diffusion, utilisation ou copie de ce message ou des renseignements qu’il contient par une personne autre que les destinataires designes est interdite.