WINNIPEG – The 2014 Canadian Age Group Championships this Wednesday to Monday in Winnipeg will be one of the last major competitive tests for many of Canada’s top junior and youth swimmers before their big international events in August.

A total of 876 swimmers (492 women and 384 men) from 144 clubs are competing this week at the Pan Am Pool.

Nine of the 10 provinces as well as the Yukon have entries. There is also an international flavour with swimmers from Ireland, Hong Kong, Bermuda and England.

The age groups for the girls are 12-and-under, 13-and-under, 14-and-under, 15-and-under and 16-18 and for the boys 13-and-under, 14-and-under, 15-and-under, 16-and-under and 17-18.

‘’We got a lot of positive feedback after reformatting the event last year,’’ said Ken McKinnon, Swimming Canada’s national junior coach. ‘’Now it reflects like a true championships. With the competition at the Pan Am Pool we are expecting some very fast times.’’

Canadian team members for the Youth Olympic Games August 16-28 in China and Junior Pan Pacific Championships August 27-31 in Hawaii are featured.

Some Junior Pan Pac team members scheduled to compete include Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., Peter Brothers of Victoria, Meryn McCann of Etobicoke, Ont., and Danika Huizinga of Ajax, Ont. Youth Olympic Games team members include Javier Acevedo of Ajax and Danielle Hanus of Newmarket, Ont. Last year Etobicoke Swimming took the overall and boys team titles while the Pointe-Claire (Que.) Swim Club was first in the girls team standings.

McKinnon says it is important for the young swimmers to have an opportunity to race athletes their own age.

‘’It narrows the field and gives more swimmers the opportunity to race in finals which is very important in their development.’’

Preliminaries are set for 9 a.m. each day with finals at 5:30 p.m.

The 2.5 kilometre and five kilometre open water races on Monday take place at the St. Malo Provincial Park at 8:30 a.m.

Youth Dual Meet

Immediately after the Canadian Age Group Championships is the inaugural Youth Dual Meet set for July 29-30 at the Pan Am Pool.  The competition targets Canada’s top youth and prospect age swimmers. The youth age for the boys is 16-17 and prospects 15 and under. For the girls it’s 15-16 and 14 and under.

‘’This provides our top young swimmers an opportunity to race short course in the summer and will be a great opportunity for them to get their best times,’’ said McKinnon. ‘’Usually short course kicks off the new season in September and it’s harder to get those best times.’’

The Western Team comprises swimmers from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba; the Eastern Team is Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador. Swimmers earn points for their team for each individual race with points doubled for relays.

Competition starts at 5:30 p.m. both days.