By Jim Morris
VANCOUVER – Swimming in anyone’s wake is never easy, but it’s made even harder when that person is a world record holder in breaststroke.
Tera Van Beilen spent a year swimming against and training with Annamay Pierse at the UBC Dolphins Swim Club. She believes the lessons learned from Pierse will help when she competes at the World Championships Trials April 3-6 in Victoria.
“Annamay was always kind of my role model,” Van Beilen, who swims the 200-metre and 100-m breaststroke, said after a recent practice at the UBC Aquatic Centre. “Swimming with her last year was kind of fun.
“To see how she deals with situations and how she goes about her day and her workouts. I still talk to her about how to deal with some situations in and out of the pool. She is still there for me to talk to. I like that friendship we have. I miss her around the pool deck but life goes on.”
The women’s swim team is going through a transition with the retirement of veterans like Pierse, who held the 200-m breaststroke world record, and Julia Wilkinson, a two-time Olympian.
Van Beilen, who turns 20 just prior to the World Championships Trials, sees herself moving into a leadership role.
“I’d like to have that kind of role sometime, maybe not this year,” she said. “I will work towards that.”
The Oakville, Ont., native has her own ideas on what makes a leader.
“I think (it’s) someone that is able to, maybe not take control, but have a presence that others look up to,” she said. “You walk on the pool deck, people look up to you.
“It’s a good position to be in but it has its responsibilities. Swimming fast comes with it. That’s why I’m expected to possibly have that role some day. I look forward to it.”
The eyes of the world fell on Van Beilen during last summer’s London Olympics when she was involved in a swim-off with Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson for the eighth spot in the finals of the 100-m breaststroke. Van Beilen finished ninth but it was an exciting introduction to her first Olympics.
Van Beilen also was 21st in the 200-m breaststroke and was a member of the 4×100-medley relay that placed 12th.
“I still see myself as a little rookie, since last year was my first national team,” chuckled Van Beilen. “I think I’m still one of the young ones. Hopefully I will be on the team long enough to get the veteran role.”
Her Olympic experience give Van Beilen confidence heading into the World Championships Trials.
“Every meet you do at a world level gives you that much more of an advantage over the other swimmers,” she said. “Having swam with thousands of people watching you is beneficial.
“There is a certain amount of pressure you need to get to where you want to be.”
Van Beilen has a busy summer planned. She hopes to compete at both the World University Games, July 6 to 17 in Kazan, Russia, and the World Aquatics Championships, July 19 to Aug. 4, in Barcelona, Spain.
“That’s the plan,” she said. “I’m thinking that’s a good idea because I haven’t had that much international experience and the more racing I get, the better I will be when it comes down to the really important stuff. Obviously, worlds would be the priority.”
Van Beilen earned two silver medals at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China.
“It was a good racing experience,” she said. “I think I just need to get off the blocks more and that’s a good opportunity to do that.”