Retirement ceremonies planned for Hayden, Pierse


Source: Swimming Canada

VANCOUVER – Years of perseverance and dedication will berecognized this weekend when retirement ceremonies are held forOlympic bronze medallist Brent Hayden and former world recordholder Annamay Pierse at the Mel Zajac Jr. International CanadaCup.

For Hayden and Pierse it will be another chance to be cheered atthe same University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre where theyspent years training as members of the UBC Dolphins.

“I think it’s pretty cool they are honouring their athletes,”said Pierse, 29, who in 2009 set both the long and short-courseworld record in the 200-metre breaststroke. “It’s nice they areshowing us appreciation and doing something in that regard.”

Hayden, a former 100-metre freestyle world champion who retiredafter
winning a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games, was also namedto the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year. He likes theidea of having former coaches and teammates involved in thisweekend’s ceremony.

“It’s a huge honour,” said the 29-year-old who was born inMission, B.C. “It’s nice to be recognized for my career.”

Pierse’s ceremony will be held during Friday night’scompetition. Hayden will be honoured Saturday night.

Tom Johnson, head coach of the National Swimming Centre -Vancouver, said both athletes served as role models for youngswimmers in Canada.

“They defined our program to a large degree in the years theywere at the top of their game,” said Johnson. “When you’re settingworld records, winning medals at the world championships andwinning the world championship the way Brent did . . . it basicallyputs your program on the map and keeps it there.”

This year’s Mel Zajac Jr. International Canada Cup will attractaround 440 athletes including five-time Olympic gold medallist RyanLochte of the U.S. and his teammate Elizabeth Beisel, who won abronze and silver at the London Games. Among the Canadian swimmerswill be 2012 Olympians Savannah King, Joel Greenshields, Tera vanBeilen, Scott Dickens and Tommy Gossland.

Both Pierse and Hayden competed at the meet during theircareers.

King, a two-time Olympian who will attend both the WorldChampionships and World Student Games this summer, said it’simportant to acknowledge athletes that had an impact on Canadianswimming.

“Annamay and Brent were so fantastic when they were swimming,”said King. “It’s nice to recognize how much they put into the sportand how amazing they really were when they were in the sport.”

Pierse was born in Toronto, grew up in Edmonton and attendedUBC. She credits coach Jozef Nagy for having the most impact on hercareer.

“I went from being this athlete, this swimmer that nobodythought was ever going to do anything,” she said. “Joe just had somuch belief in me.”

There are many highlights in her career but the one that stillshines brightest is setting the short-course world record inToronto in March 2009.

“Everybody was there to see me swim,” said Pierse, who now livesin Toronto. “Touching the wall and looking up and seeing a newworld record, it still kind of takes my breath away when I thinkabout it.

“In that moment everything was worth it. All of those bad days.All of those great days. The whole journey in my swimming careerwas worth it in that moment.”

Pierse still holds the Canadian 100 and 200-metre breaststrokerecord. She reached the 200 breaststroke final at the 2008 BeijingOlympics, then set the long-course world record in the semifinalsof the 2009 World Championships in Rome. Pierse would finish secondin the final.

While attending the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delphi, Piersecontracted a severe case of Dengue fever. She was unable to trainproperly for months, then missed qualifying for the London Olympicsat the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trails in Montreal.

That bitter defeat was a test of Pierse’s courage.

“That was just devastating and heartbreaking, everything allrolled into one,” she said. “I made it out the other side ofthat.

“I think that’s the biggest thing swimming has given me. I knowlife at times, it’s not easy, but there’s not going to be anythingthat’s going to fully throw me down and I won’t be able to get backup.”

Hayden, the Canadian record holder in the 200, 100 and 50-metrefreestyle, said tying for first place at the 2007 WorldChampionships and his Olympic medal are understandably the highpoints of his career. He said the frustration he felt at the 2004Olympics in Athens and again at the 2008 Games in Beijing wereimportant character builders.

“I think I actually needed those to happen,” he said. “I learnedmore about myself as a person and as an athlete coming back fromthose tough times and becoming successful afterward, rather thanlearning about myself when things were gong well.”

2013 Mel Zajac Jr. International Canada Cup Swim MeetEvent Schedule

Friday May 24, 2013
Morning Heats – 9:00 am
Evening Finals – 5:30 pm

Saturday May 25, 2013
Morning Heats – 9:00 am
Evening Finals – 5:30 pm

Sunday May 26, 2013
Morning Heats – 9:00 am
Evening Finals – 5:30 pm

Scott Harrigan
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