Eric Hedlin and Stephanie Horner’s performances at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships have earned them male and female open water swimmers of the year.
Hedlin closed the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo with Canada’s ninth medal. He captured silver in the 10-km open water race finishing closely behind Jordan Wilimovsky of Team USA.
Hedlin’s first international medal in five years has earned him Swimming Canada’s Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year award. Hedlin won a silver medal in the 5-km race at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, but it’s been a challenge to return to the podium.
“Coming out of the 2017 season, where I had a disappointing placement in the 5-km at worlds and wasn’t able to race at (World University Games) due to high water temperatures, I knew I could do better and wanted the 2018 season to reflect my feelings.”
Hedlin started his 2018 open water season at the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swim World Series in Doha, Qatar.
“I had an eye opening experience at a race in Doha. It was one of the largest packs I had raced against, and although I did not place highly, I learned that I needed to work on my in-pack swimming and took this into consideration in future races.”
Hedlin’s season only improved from there. He won a silver medal in the 5-km at the US Open Water Nationals. He later went on to win a gold medal at the 2018 UANA Open Water Swimming Championships in the Cayman Islands. Finishing as the top Canadian qualified him for the Pan Pacs team, where Hedlin swam his best 10-km race of the season, earning him his silver medal.
“I felt confident going into the race and I executed my race plan just how I had intended,” said Hedlin about his performance in Tokyo. “It was an amazing way to end the season.”
Born in Calgary, and raised in San Diego, Calif., Hedlin returned to Canada after high school to further his swimming career in Victoria. Hedlin now trains with coach Ron Jacks, who was named Coach of the Year – Male Open Water Swimmer.
Three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner of Beaconsfield, Que., also had a successful season.
Horner finished 8th at the Pan Pacs in the 10-km race to earn Swimming Canada’s Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year.
“I’m pleased and honoured to receive this award,” said Horner. “It’s always motivating to be recognized for your hard work.”
Horner finished as the top female Canadian at the 2018 UANA Open Water Swimming Championships in the Cayman Islands, which qualified her for the Pan Pacs team in Tokyo. Her race was another step in her road to a potential fourth Olympic Games in 2020.
“Having raced in Japan this summer at the Pan Pacific Games was a great sneak peek to Tokyo 2020.”
Horner has spent the past couple years training with Martin Gingras at the Pointe-Claire Swim Club. Gingras was awarded Coach of the Year – Female Open Water Swimmer for his work with Horner.
After the 2018 season, Horner decided to move back to Victoria, where she trained a few years ago, to train with High Performance Centre coach Ryan Mallette.
Horner qualified for her first international open water event at the 2015 World University Games, after having attended two Olympic Games competing in the pool. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Horner competed in her first Olympic open water event where she finished 23rd.
Horner’s open water swimming has significantly improved over the past three years. This year she will focus on her training and look to make the 2019 FINA World Championships team.
“Every race leading up to trials (for worlds in April) is an opportunity to improve and to gain experience,” she said. “I look forward to more international racing and to keep challenging myself against the best in the world.”
The 2019 season will be an important one for open water swimmers as they have an opportunity to earn a spot on the Olympic team with first round qualifications. Hedlin will also look to make a spot on the FINA World Championships team competing in Gwangju, Korea in July.