By Jim Morris
TORONTO – A day that began with a strange twist ended well for Aurelie Rivard Friday at the Speedo Can Am Para-swimming Championships.
Rivard received a shock when she lost her swim cap during the morning preliminaries but got her head back in the game to win the final of the women’s S10 400-metre freestyle.
Rivard’s time of four minutes, 43.52 seconds was about six seconds off her Canadian record but the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., native knows where she can make improvements as she prepares for a busy summer that includes both the Glasgow IPC Swimming World Championships and the Toronto Parapan Am Games.
“I can go way faster than my personal best,” said Rivard. “I am going to work during the few months we have to see what I can do.
“I need to have more confidence in myself and really go for it and not be scared of anything.”
Rivard received an unwanted surprise during the morning swim when her cap popped off, causing hair to cover her eyes for part of the race. She solved the problem by wearing two caps in the evening final.
“I was little nervous,” she said. “I was afraid to lose it again. It worked.”
Prior to the evening session Rivard and Nathan Stein of Maple Ridge, B.C., were recognized for being named the Team Aquatic Supplies female and Male Para-swimmer of the Year.
The Can Ams, which end Sunday evening, feature more than 200 swimmers from 11 countries and nine Canadian provinces. Preliminary heats start at 9:30 a.m. each day, with finals set for 6 p.m. each night. All sessions of the meet will be webcast live. For more information and all results visit https://www.swimming.ca/2015SpeedoCANAMParaswimmingChampionships
Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., had a good night winning the S10 400-m freestyle in 4:20.12 and the S10 100-m butterfly in 53.33.
“I just wanted to do my best, have some fun and see where it got me,” said Elliot. “I ended up winning two races. It was good.”
Elliot and Stein were involved in one of the night’s most exciting races.
Stein led after 50 metres of the 100-m fly but Elliot made a final push to catch him at the wall.
“We had expectations,” said Elliot. “The plan was to go out fast, try and stick with him and catch him at the end.”
Stein was happy with his time but frustrated with the second place.
“I’m grinding my teeth a little bit,” he said. “He is going to win that event in a couple of years.
“It’s pretty frustrating considering this is a practice for upcoming meets and internationals. That shouldn’t happen but it’s the name of the game. I seized up too early and he got me.”
In other races, Tammy Cunningham of Red Deer, Alta., won the S4 50-m backstroke in 1:13.62.
Morgan Bird of Calgary finished second in the S8 100-m in 1:24.10 even but was happier about finishing fourth in the 400 freestyle in 5:23.66.
“It’s the fastest I have gone in a year and a half,” she said. “It’s showing me it’s going in the right direction and that I have more in me than I think I do.
“I just need to keep it up and see what I can do from there. There is major room for improvement.”
Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., finished second in S9 100-m fly in 1:19.59 and was third in the S9 400-m free. Her time of 5:11.05 in the freestyle shaved over four seconds off her previous personal best.
Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., also swam a personal best time of 5:58.48 to finish second in the S7 400-m freestyle.
“It makes me believe I can do better each time,” she said. “It helps give me a little more confidence.”
Canada will send a team of up to 26 athletes to the IPC world championships, July 13-19 in Glasgow, Scotland. That group will be joined by an additional 14 to 15 swimmers and compete at the Parapan Ams Aug. 7-15.