Changes don’t disrupt Savard’s winning habits

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Katerine Savard woke up Tuesday morning to the news she has been nominated for another award.

This time it is as a finalist for the top international athlete at the sport awards for the Quebec City region. The Pont-Rouge resident will face a stellar field that includes World Cup cross country skier Alex Harvey and Olympic snowboard champion Dominique Maltais for the grand prize to be announced on April 30.

But before the gala, Savard will be in action at the Team Canada Trials Wednesday to Saturday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. The meet serves as the selection for this summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto and FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Preliminary heats start at 10 a.m. each day, with finals set for 6 p.m. For further information and a live webcast link visit www.swimming.ca

It was only last month the 21-year-old Savard was named the female Rookie of the Year at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships where she sailed to gold in every event she entered: all three butterfly races and the 200-m freestyle. She was also a member of all three women’s relay gold medal teams for the Universite de Montreal Carabins.

Savard also won five gold medals at the Quebec university championships and was named the CIS female athlete of the week for those performances.

On paper these victories are not surprising. Over the past three seasons, Savard is a Commonwealth Games champion, World University Games champion, a world championship finalist and an Olympian. But for 2014-15, she entered her first year at U de M with a full time course load. She is studying to become an elementary school teacher.

“I have to admit I’m headed to the trials with some confidence,” said Savard, who holds two national long course records. “It was a busy year with school but I was still able to put down some strong performances. This is going to be an excellent field I’ll face at trials and I really want to come close to my personal best times. That would be very satisfying.”

While managing the pool and classroom, Savard says some daily routines were disrupted but in general the experience has been beneficial.

“I’ve definitely trained and competed with some fatigue,” she said. “But it’s only going to help me for the future and make me stronger. Obviously I’m going to make some adjustments leading up and during the Olympic year.”

One of the most motivating aspects for Savard at the Team Canada Trials is competing for the first time in a new pool.

“Swimming in a new pool definitely adds to the excitement,” she said. “You definitely want to swim fast plus we’ve heard a lot of great things about the facility.”

At last year’s trials in Victoria, Savard clocked her Canadian record in the 100 fly in 57.27 while her 50-m time of 26.07 has stood since 2013. Her performances in Victoria were a springboard to an eventual gold in the 100 fly at the Commonwealth Games, the result that has put her as a finalist for the Quebec City sport award finalist.

She admits she’s keeping a close eye on her key opponents in the 100-m butterfly, 200-m butterfly as well as the 200-m freestyle which has been added to her assignment list this year. The women’s butterfly is a deep event for Canada with Savard, Noemie Thomas (also in first year university), Audrey Lacroix and young guns such as Jacomie Strydom of Edmonton whose seeded time is now under a minute in the 100-m.

“Until the competition starts nothing is for certain,” said Savard.

“All I know is I’m going to have to swim fast to qualify for those teams.”

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