VANCOUVER – The man in charge of making Canadian swimmers winners at future international competitions liked what he saw during this weekend’s Mel Zajac Jr. International Canada Cup.
John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s national high performance director, said he saw some impressive performances from the national team members attending the meet, which wrapped up Sunday night at the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre.
The competition served as a training ground for team members competing at next month’s World Student Games in Kazan, Russia, and the World Championships later this summer in Barcelona, Spain.
“The national team swimmers who were here stood on the block and gave it their best effort,” said Atkinson. “I think at this stage of the season you can only ask for people to give it their best effort.”
Atkinson said victories by Vancouver swimmers Noemie Thomas and Coleman Allen in the 100 butterfly showed a positive progression. He also was pleased with the 200-metre backstroke win by Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont.
“One of the things I have been monitoring with the athletes is how close they can get in their heat swims to the times they qualified for the (World Championship) team,” said Atkinson.
“On the whole we got some really good signs but we’ve got a lot of work to do on the whole.”
Thomas was in good form again Sunday, winning the 200-butterfly in two minutes, 12.82 seconds.
“The biggest challenge for me this weekend was swimming multiple events that I don’t usually swim,” said the 17-year-old, who was awarded Saturday’s swim of the day.
“I’m dealing with the adversity there. I made sure I executed things I wanted to work on take the small victories.”
Russell’s win in the 200 back on Friday night allowed her to swim the event at the World Championships. On Sunday she won the 100 back in 1:01.24.
American Olympic medallist Ryan Lochte wrapped up the meet by winning the 100 freestyle in 50.97 seconds. He lost a tight race to Calgary’s Russell Wood in the 100 backstroke.
“My coach had been bugging me all weekend for not beating Lochte in the 50 back,” said Wood, who was timed in 56.14 seconds, just .08 in front of Lochte. “I had to get him somewhere.
“You take the little victories and it definitely feels good for me.”
Lochte, a double gold medallist at the London Olympics, won four of the six races he swam. His other loss was in Saturday night’s 50-metre backstroke which was won by Calgary’s Gleb Suvurov.
Coach Gregg Troy said the meet was great training as Lochte prepared for the U.S. World Championship trials at the end of June.
“We hadn’t raced very much,” said Troy. “We had a hard time finding a competition the last month. Our races this week were to get a little feel and get a chance for some good competition.”
Lochte, who was named the male swimmer of the meet, was pleased with the weekend.
“This meet has been really good for me, just getting back up on the blocks and racing,” said Lochte, who also set a meet record in the 200 individual medley, the event he holds the world record in. “It doesn’t matter what kind of meet it is . . . racing the people next to you, it was a really good experience for me and I’m heading in the right direction.
“There’s a lot of things I still need to work on. I have one more month to make sure I tweak all those little things in my races.”
American Elizabeth Beisel, who won a silver and bronze medal at the London Games, struggled with an illness and did not reach the podium in Vancouver.
“She trained all week,” said Troy. “Where we are in the season, we decided to train through the meet.”
A bout of the flu kept two-time Canadian Olympian Savannah King out of the pool Saturday but she battled back to win the 800 metres Sunday.
“Considering I was down and out yesterday, that was a really good race,” said King, who won the award for Sunday’s swim of the day. “I’m proud of myself for getting back up there and being able to finish the meet, even though the middle was really rough.
“It was good to take last night off and then be able to get back up today.”
University of Michigan swimmer Emily Brunemann, who set a meet record in the 1,500 metres, was named the female swimmer of the meet. She also was awarded Friday’s swim of the day.
Luke Reilly, 17, of the UBC Dolphins was named the meet’s male junior swimmer meet while Emily Overholt, 15, of Vancouver, the top junior female.
In other women’s races, Tianna Rissling of Medicine Hat, Alta., won the 50-metre breaststroke in 32.09 seconds while American Natalie Hinds took the 100 freestyle in 55.50 seconds.
The men’s winners included Andrew Poznikoff, Drumheller, Alta., 50 breaststroke in 29.04; Stefan Milosevic, New Westminster, B.C., 200 butterfly, 2:05.40; and Kier Maitland, Edmonton, 1,500 metres, 15:50.77.
The Team Alberta crew of Ingrid Wilm, Patricia Pierse, Lili Margitai and Paige Kremer won the women’s 4×100-metre relay in 4:13.84.
The men’s 4×100 relay was won by the UBC Dolphins team of Kelly Aspinall, Evan Broderick, Allen and Tommy Gossland in 3:51.32.