Canadians savour first international medals

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OTTAWA – Canadian swimmers who won their first international medals in 2014 will have their sights set even higher now that the calendar has turned to 2015.

Katerine Savard, Brooklynn Snodgrass, Chantal Van Landeghem and Brittany MacLean all earned individual hardware at the senior level for Canada.

“Winning at the Commonwealth Games was always one of my big objectives,” said Savard, about her 100-m butterfly victory in Glasgow.

”It was a race that I felt a lot of pressure to win and there was a lot of stress.

“I felt I learned how to win (last) year.”

The 21-year-old Savard also helped Canada to bronze in the 4×100-m medley relays in Glasgow and at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia. It was a transition year for the Universite de Montreal student. She moved to Montreal from her home in Pont-Rouge (near Quebec City) to join forces with coach Claude St-Jean at CAMO. She went on to set a Canadian record of 57.27 in the 100-m butterfly at Canadian Swimming Trials in April, followed by her international success.

“There’s no doubt it was a big challenge to change coaches after you’ve been with the same one your whole life,” she said. “I was apprehensive and I didn’t know what to expect. It was a relief to post such fast times at the Canadian Swimming Trials and I carried that wave into the Commonwealth Games.”

With the Commonwealth and Pan Pacs held just a month apart but separated by a large distance Savard felt 2014 was full of valuable lessons.

”Obviously I was disappointed how my season finished, I was expected to be on the podium in Australia but felt exhausted from the travel,” she said. ”But we have a similar schedule in 2015 with the Pan Ams and FINA World Championships so close together.

The 20-year-old MacLean, named Swimming Canada’s OMEGA Female Swimmer of the Year, served notice she will be a force to reckon with through to the 2016 Olympic Games. She collected a bronze medal in the 800-m freestyle at Commonwealth Games and also helped Canada to silver in the 4×200-m freestyle relay. Less than a month later at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia she took bronze in the 800-m and 1,500-m freestyle, setting national records in both. She once again was part of a podium finish in the 4×200-m relay.

Those performances followed a super spring capped with being named the NCAA’s Female Swimmer of the Year. The University of Georgia student lowered the American college record in the mile by 10 seconds, one of three marks she set on the circuit. She also ended 2014 as the Canadian record holder in the three distance freestyle events (the 400, 800 and 1500).

Possibly the most unexpected medal performance in 2014 came from Snodgrass. The national team rookie won a bronze in the women’s 50-m backstroke by the narrowest of margins at the Commonwealth Games with a Canadian record time. Less than a month later she was part of the 4×100-m medley relay that won bronze at the Pan Pacs.

It was only two years ago Van Landeghem missed a berth on the Olympic team by a mere 0.01 seconds. But that crushing disappointment wasn’t going to deter the 20-year-old.

“I’m not one to ever stop trying,” said Van Landeghem, who also won a top academic award this year at the University of Georgia. “It wasn’t hard to come back after the Olympic Trials. I love swimming so much that it served more as motivation than anything else.”

The Winnipeg native continued to improve in 2014, capped by a bronze medal in the 50-m freestyle in Canadian record time at the Pan Pacific Championships. Just a month before the competition she had broken a toe, which disrupted her final preparations.

“Earning a medal wasn’t really a goal at that point,” she said. “I just wanted to swim the best I could. I put down a sound technical race and that was the key to getting on the podium.

“That kind of performance reinforces what I’m working towards and why I get up at 5 a.m. every day. I just want to keep moving in the right direction.”

And that direction is towards Rio in 2016.

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