Assaad among homegrown juniors competing in Melbourne

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MELBOURNE, Australia – For Gamal Assaad, the route to far-away locales like Australia and Dubai has led right through his home province of Ontario.

The 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont., is one of 15 members of Swimming Canada’s 2014 Australian Junior Tour. The group will compete at the Victorian Open Championships from Friday through Sunday.

Assaad is no stranger to international travel.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he moved to Canada as a child and began swimming at age nine. He’s already represented Canada at last year’s FINA World Junior Championships in Dubai. But when it came time to begin his university career, Assaad went just down the road to Western University in London, Ont., joining a Mustangs team coached by Paul Midgley and Ken Fitzpatrick.

Majoring in engineering, like several of his teammates, Assaad is directing himself towards a professional degree requiring a rigorous schedule both in and out of the pool. With various training groups, multiple coaches and dryland activities from yoga to spin to boxing to ultimate Frisbee, there are plenty of options to work hard on both sides of the student-athlete equation.

“Coach Midgley gives each athlete an opportunity to maximize their workouts,” said Fitzpatrick, who was captain of Canada’s Olympic men’s team in 1984. “Undoubtedly, students will have to trade a workout time here or there, but the bottom line is we offer overlapping workout sessions throughout the day and no one gets left behind.”

In November, Assaad took time out of his busy schedule to speak to a group of younger swimmers in town for a regional camp at Western. Assaad addressed his memory of falling short of the 2012 team for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“Only when you dare to fail do you really learn something about yourself,” Assaad told the crowd.

Less than two years later, he’s learned from that lesson, representing Canada internationally with a bright future on the horizon.

Fitzpatrick and Midgley – a 1976 Olympian and three-time Olympic coach who will be inducted into Western’s Aquatic Wall of Honour next month – were pleased to land Assaad in this year’s recruiting crop. In addition to his experience with the National Development Team program, Assaad’s breakout year included his first national title, when he won the 100-metre butterfly at Summer Nationals.

“Attracting the likes of Assaad, and last year picking up Emma Sproule from Cascade Swim Club in Calgary reinforces the character and quality of athlete the Mustangs are beginning to attract,” Fitzpatrick said.

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