By Jim Morris
VANCOUVER – They may be at different points in their development curve but UBC swimmers Savannah King and Kelly Aspinall are hoping to ride a wave of success into the World Championships Trials next month in Victoria.
King, 20, and Aspinall, 23, were named the female and male Canadian Interuniversity Sport swimmers of the year at the recent CIS championships in Calgary.
Aspinall, of Nanoose Bay, B.C., set championship records in the 50- and 100-m backstroke as the Thunderbird men finished second to the Toronto Varsity Blues.
“I love CIS swimming,” said King, who was born in Scarborough, Ont., and grew up in Vernon, B.C. “Going in, being part of a team, it’s just so empowering and such a confidence boost.”
Aspinall joins an impressive list. Past CIS male swimmers of the year include Olympic medallists like Ryan Cochrane, Curtis Myden and Alex Baumann.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost,” said Aspinall, who hopes to qualify for the World Aquatics Championships in the 100-m freestyle and relay events. “If you look at the past names of the swimmers, most of them went on to do some pretty good things for Canada. That’s exciting.”
King believes she and Aspinall carry a mental edge into the April 3-6 trials, being held at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
“We made a statement at the CIS (championships),” she said. “We even have a block of training to get even better.
“It definitely gets in the heads of your competitors a little bit. They know you are right there.”
King competed in the 400- and 800-m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics. She recorded a personal best time to finish 15th in the 800 and was 18th in the 400. King also had top-20 finishes in the 800 and 1,500 at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai.
For King, making the national team for World Championships is just the beginning.
“I’ve been growing as an athlete, improving on my swims and improving on being able to step up in the international competitions,” she said. “I should be getting to the point where making the team isn’t my biggest problem.
“It’s stepping up after making the team and being able to perform at the meet and get what I want from the international competition.”
Aspinall is looking to make his first senior A team.
“It is a pretty big jump in terms of taking it to the next level,” he said. “The plan is to move on from the B teams and start making the A teams and eventually, hopefully, make the Olympics.”
Coach Steve Price calls Aspinall a late developer.
“He is just starting to come around now,” said Price. “If he decides to keep going, keep developing, I think he can be a bit of a player.”
Aspinall has spent the last three years training with Brent Hayden, the Olympic bronze medallist and former world champion.
“I just focused on the little things he does,” said Aspinall. “His attention to detail was second to none. His ability to focus was pretty amazing.
“I try to include that into my training. In the last year I’ve just tried to change all the little things, always hitting my walls, always hitting my underwaters. I think that’s what made him so fast.”
King, who was captain of her varsity team, hopes to take on more of a leadership role with the national team.
“I’m not one to lead by standing up at the front and going hurrah,” she said.
“I lead more by example. They (teammates) have to know you are there to perform and you there to be a leader and get the team going.”
Both swimmers also plan to compete at this summer’s World University Games.
Aspinall swam at the 2009 Games but missed the 2011 competition due to sinus surgery.
“It’s really high calibre,” he said. “When I was last there we were racing world record holders and Olympic champions.”
The World University Games are July 6 to 17 in Kazan, Russia.
The World Aquatics Championships will be held July 19 to Aug. 4 in Barcelona.