BARCELONA – Doing less is producing more for butterfly specialist Katerine Savard.
Frustrated by her performance at the 2012 London Olympics, Savard and her coach re-examined her training methods and decided to do things differently. The result is two medals at the recent 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia, and Canadian records in the 100-metre and 50-m fly.
Savard broke her own Canadian record in the 100 while competing at the Fran Crippen Memorial in Mission Viejo, Calif.
“My last best time was in 2011,” said Savard. “It gave me a lot of confidence. I am going to work really hard to be able to go faster.”
Savard’s race-winning time of 57.40 seconds beat her previous best of 57.80. It ranks as the second fastest time posted this year and is a positive sign as the Pont-Rouge, Que., native prepares for the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. The pool competition begins Sunday and runs to Aug. 4.
Savard won gold in the 100-m fly and silver in the 50-m at the Universiade. Her time of 57.63 in the 100-m set a Universiade record. She lowered her own time in the 50-m to 26.05.
“That showed where I was at this moment of the year,” Savard said about her performance. “I’m going to train really hard to be faster.”
Coach Marc-Andre Pelletier is confident Savard, who turned 20 in May, can continue to improve at the worlds.
“I think she can be a finalist at least,” he said.
Savard had barely turned 19 when she competed at her first Olympics in London. She missed the 100-metre fly semifinals by 0.02 seconds, but felt she could have done better.
“I was really sad about what I did last summer,” she said. “That was not what I expected.”
The experience resulted in Savard and Pelletier tweaking her training.
“I did some different things than last year,” she said. “I did less practice in the water and less practice in the weight room.
“Last year I was kind of tired at the Olympics. Now we reduced our training. We work, not on how much training we do, but how good we do the training. We worked a lot on my technique. My underwater is really better than last year. I think that’s why I’m better this year.”
Pelletier likes the idea of Savard getting stronger but doesn’t want to sacrifice speed.
“I don’t want her to gain too much muscle,” he said. “Last year at the Olympics she was maybe a little bit too (heavy) in the upper body. We have to work on that and watch it.
“We have to be stronger but not heavier.”
Savard will swim the 100-m and 200-m fly at Barcelona. She understands going from the Universiade to the World Championships is like stepping from minor league baseball to the majors.
“The level is going to be higher, it’s going to be faster,” she said. “I have to focus on my own swim. I cannot control what the other swimmers are going to do.”
Pelletier sees improvement in the 200, where Savard is ranked seventh in the world and finished fourth at the Universiade.
“We have to work on the last 50 metres, said Pelletier. “Technically, when she is tired her breathing is not well. It’s getting better.”
Pelletier said Savard is very coachable, but her strongest trait might be her competitive spirit.
“She’s a racer,” he said. “Sometimes we forget about racing, we think too much.
“But the sport is a race. When there’s competition she can increase her level.”
Savard said the Olympics was a great learning experience not only in the pool but also about coping with stress and expectations.
“I was really nervous,” she said. “In my head, because my mother was in the stands (I thought) ‘I need to swim fast, everyone is watching me.’
“I think I am going to be more prepared about that. I’m going to work just on myself.”
Savard and her younger brother were enrolled in swim lessons at a young age, partly because of their mother’s fear of the water. That fear developed because their mother had a brother who nearly drowned.
“When I was young we were not allowed to have a pool at our house because my mother was too afraid of water,” Savard said.
Her mother loves attending meets to watch her daughter swim but won’t get any closer to the pool than the stands.
“She really likes it but she’s not going in the water,” Savard laughed.
The world championships are the highlight of Savard’s calendar this year but she’s already thinking ahead to the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I want to be better in 2016,” she said.