Vancouver, BC – This weekend will mark Savannah King‘s final time swimming for the UBC Thunderbirds.
One of the most decorated swimmers in UBC history, King and the Thunderbirds are set for the 2015 CIS Swimming Championships beginning Thursday in Victoria. The UBC women are the three-time defending CIS Champions, and King, in her fifth and final year of eligibility, is looking to cement her legacy with a weekend to remember.
“There is that lingering feeling that it is coming to an end and I need to start focusing on future things,” said King, a native of Vernon, BC. “I’m nervous and excited at the same time. We had Canada West championships in November and I was a wreck there. No doubt there will be lots of tears this weekend.”
King originally came to Vancouver in 2007 as a 15-year old to train at the national training centre in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. While there she got to know the members of the UBC Thunderbirds team, bonded with the girls and decided to stay.
Since joining the Thunderbirds program in the fall of 2010, King has dominated the distance freestyle events. She is a three-time CIS Champion, five-time Canada West Champion, been named CIS Swimmer of the Year twice, Canada West Swimmer of the Year four times, the CIS/Canada West Rookie of the Year, and is a two-time Olympian (2008 & 2012). In total she has won 24 Canada West medals (20 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze) and heading into this week’s CIS Championship 15 CIS medals (9 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze).
This weekend she has the opportunity to join a elite group in Victoria; if she can win the 800m freestyle at the CIS Championships for a fifth straight year.
“Last year they gave me the grand slam award for winning the event the last four years and that was an honour,” said King. “But to go five for five and to have never been beaten in one event, that was one of my goals coming in to this season. We talk about leaving a legacy as a team, this is my opportunity to leave a legacy as an individual.”
However, as great as individual accolades are, team success, especially UBC Thunderbirds success is what ultimately drives King.
“Probably one of my favourite experiences in my entire career, even counting both Olympic games I swam in, was the 2012 CIS Championships in Montreal,” said King. “It came down to the last relay for the men’s championship and our guys were within a couple of points of winning and they had to come top two. They ended up winning. To have the entire team (both men and women) win the title together and just that moment coming down to the one race was the most exciting thing I’ve ever had happen to me. It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.”
“Savannah absolutely loves UBC Thunderbirds swimming and UBC Thunderbirds sports and has been a steady force in the program for the last five years,” said UBC head coach Steve Price. “She appreciates it more and more the older she has gotten. She really wants to swim well for her school and she takes great pride in it.”
“Everybody has to know it is about the team, even the national team athletes,” said King. “It’s so cool to think about the elite athletes putting so much into varsity swimming. It means so much.”
After this weekend King will turn her attention to an even longer distance in the water, 10 kilometres. Due to her success in the distance events in the pool, Swimming Canada approached her about moving to the open water and taking a crack at a third Olympic Games in 2016.
“There are only four or five women who have gone to three Olympic Games and to be apart of that elite group would be a blessing and something I could hang my hat on for the rest of my life,” said King. “Somebody said that is an easy way out, but they have never swam a 10km. Ultimately, I’ve been to two Olympic games, now it’s time to step it up and try and get to the podium.”
The first step to making her return to the Olympics is to qualify for the Pan American Games in May at an open water race in Mexico.
Regardless of what transpires over the next six months King will continue to purse her degree from the School of Kinesiology (she is just five courses shy of graduation) and hopefully one day work with athletes with a focus on bio mechanics.
“I’m really become interested in our bio mechanist who works with our swim team and our stroke,” said King. “Whether it is swimming or otherwise, I would like to stay in sports some how. I’ve grown accustomed to the life of travel, so ideally I will find a job in which I can see the world.”
As for the ‘R’ word, retirement from competitive swimming, King knows the end is near and no matter what happens she has zero regrets.
“My thought is after 2016 that would be it,” said King. “I’ve swam for 17 years. It has been a good run. Even if I retired today, there is nothing I would change. I’m completely proud of everything I have accomplished.”