By Jim Morris
It’s safe to say early morning training sessions rank low on the list of favourite things of most swimmers.
So coach Janusz Kaczmarek was surprised when Emily Overholt suggested practice sessions for the West Vancouver Otters begin 15 minutes earlier, at 5:30 a.m.
“She asked for that so she could do more,” Kaczmarek said with a chuckle.
Overholt is fresh off helping the women’s 4×200-m freestyle relay team win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. She returned home, had time to do some laundry and see her parents, before heading to Australia where the 16-year-old will be the youngest member of the Canadian team competing at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships Aug. 21-25 in Gold Coast.
Overholt will swim both the 200 and 400-m individual medley at the Pan Pacs, plus the 4×200-m free relay. She is looking forward to getting back in the pool against some of the world’s best IM swimmers.
“I would like to make the final (and) hopefully go a little bit faster than I did in Scotland,” she said.
“There are so many fast swimmers I don’t know how it’s going to pan out.”
The Commonwealth Games was Overholt’s first major international event as a member of the senior national team, but she has plenty of experience on the world stage as a junior. Last year she swam at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival then won a bronze medal in the 400 IM at the World Junior Championships in Dubai.
Overholt shaved five seconds off that national 15-17 age group record time to finish fifth in the 400 IM in Glasgow in four minutes, 37.89 seconds and is ranked 16th in the world at the distance.
Kaczmarek said the junior program was a great springboard for Overholt.
“It helped tremendously for her to have the exposure to go and compete in different countries against different swimmers from all over the world,” he said.
The Pan Pacs will be another progression in that learning curve.
“Now is the next step,” said Kaczmarek. “She understands she belongs with the best in the world.
“There is no pressure on her. I’m sure she will be nervous but I have a feeling she will do very well.”
The Commonwealth Games gave Overholt a taste of what it’s like to live and compete in a multi-sport atmosphere.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “I learned a lot.
“It was really cool to experience being in the village and having the whole Games experience.”
Overholt was surprised when she was asked to swim the anchor on the relay team.
“I felt a lot of pressure,” she said. “I feel it kind of elevated my performance.
“Seeing the other three girls go ahead of me and swim really fast, I just kind of put my head down.”
The 400 IM is Overholt’s best event. Kaczmarek said one of her strengths is her ability to make the transition between the different strokes. She also is very strong in the butterfly, which allows her to separate from the field in the race’s first leg.
“That’s a huge advantage over her opponents,” said the coach.
Overholt was four years old when she began swimming lessons and nine when she joined the Otters. Kaczmarek watched her progression and became her coach five years ago.
In 2012 Overholt broke the national age group records in the 13-14 200-m butterfly (short course), and 13-14 400-m individual medley (long course).
A tremendous work ethic combined with talent and discipline has aided Overholt’s development.
“She learns very fast,” said Kaczmarek. “She understands the sets I design, she executes them very well.
“Most of all she is a great racer. The higher the level of competition the better she swims.”
During a national team training camp in Victoria Overholt was shown some pre-practice stretching exercises. She found them so helpful she decided to incorporate the warm-up routine into her regular training.
That resulted in Overholt asking for practices to begin to begin 15 minutes early back at her own club.
“I really liked it,” Overholt said. “I thought it would help.
“It’s part of my routine now.”
Overholt laughed when asked if her teammates where happy with the time change.
“Not so much,” she said.
Both Overholt’s parents are lawyers. Her mother works in corporate and environmental law while her father is a labour lawyer.
“We watch Suits a lot,” Overholt said.
While many of her teammates listen to rock, rap or electronic music, Overholt is a country fan. She lists superstar Luke Bryan as a celebrity she’d like to have dinner with.
“My mom likes it,” Overholt said about her taste in music. “I was listening to it when I was younger and stuck to it.”
Still a teenager, Overholt is growing stronger physically and also learning how to be more race savvy. Her target right now is the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I never really thought I’d get to this stage when I was young,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Kaczmarek said Overholt is just starting to show her potential.
“She still is very young,” he said. “She still has lots to learn and she is learning fast.”