swim canada-2

Nathan White

August 10, 2012, BARCELONA (ISN) – Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson has been focused on improvement from Day 1, and he saw plenty of things he liked during his first FINA World Championships at the helm.

Canada left Barcelona with four swimming medals, qualifying for a total of 11 finals and missing two others by just 0.05 seconds each. As the first major international meet on the four-year road to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the worlds offered several good signs that bode well for Canada’s development towards Rio.

“The team overall had 11 finals, 10 of those in Olympic events and three medals in the pool,” Atkinson said at the conclusion of the 16-day event, which wrapped up Sunday. “That compared to seven finals (at the 2012 Olympics) in London, and we have five new events where we didn’t actually have a finalist in London and they’ve come here a year later, stepped up and moved it on. It’s great to have new events getting into the world Top 8.

Canada finished strong with medals on the final two nights of the eight-day pool meet. Hilary Caldwell took bronze in the women’s 200-metre backstroke Saturday while Ryan Cochrane won silver in the men’s 1,500-m freestyle Sunday to go with his 800-m bronze.

While Atkinson was pleased with Canada’s success in the pool, he also highlighted the strides made by the open water team, which competed in the first week of the championships. Eric Hedlin took silver in the men’s 5-km race on the opening day, and Richard Weinberger (5th in men’s 10-km) and Philippe Guertin (9th in men’s 25-km) followed up with solid performances

“Eric Hedlin winning a silver medal in open water to go along with the three medals that came from the pool for four medals overall for Canada I think is exceptional,” Atkinson said. “The open water team made significant improvement since the last world championships in Shanghai in 2011 and we had three men who made top 10 finishes. If you look at the overall points in open water, we tied for seventh but if you narrow it down and look at the men’s side we were actually third nation in the point scores.”

Since leaving British Swimming to join Swimming Canada in March, Atkinson has preached a focus on improvement, whether from heat swims to semifinals and finals, or from the Trials in April to the worlds.

“One of the first things that we set out to do and I discussed it with Randy Bennett, the head coach, is continual improvement from Trials to world championships,” Atkinson said. “We’re at about 42 per cent with people who swam faster than what they did at the Trials. That’s significant because most people would set that time in a final at Trials and they’ve had to stand up in heat swims here and swimmers have improved through their rankings and finished higher with a faster time than they did at the Trials, so that’s really encouraging.”

Atkinson also highlighted that all four medals came from swimmers at Bennett’s Victoria Academy of Swimming, one of Swimming Canada’s five National Swim Centres.

“I’ve got to give some real credit to our world-class coach Randy Bennett,” Atkinson said. “All four medals came from his program at the Swimming Canada Victoria Academy of Swimming. That’s just a great effort and the athletes in there should be absolutely proud of their achievements.”