Wednesday, May 22, 2024

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Ottawa swimmers enter trials eyeing Olympic, Jr. Pan Pac team berths

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By Martin Cleary

The big test is on the horizon and fast approaching.

High school and university students know all about final exams for their academic studies. But if they also happen to be a high-performance athlete, they’re familiar with the unique pressure-perform challenges of their sports.

Thirty-eight Ottawa swimmers will be aiming to stroke as fast as they can next week through the waters of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre pool during the Swimming Canada Olympic and Paralympic trials.

The seven-day meet also will serve as the Canadian trials to select the national team for the Junior Pan-Pacific championships later this year.

For the swimmers aiming for a spot on Canada’s Summer Olympic team in Paris, they must achieve two distinct goals – match or exceed the FINA A time standard in their men’s or women’s races, and finish in first or second place in the final.

The demanding international time standards would put a swimmer in the top 25 to 30 in the world.

While international stars like Summer McIntosh, Kylie Masse and Maggie Mac Neil are expected to dominate the headlines at the Olympic trials, there are three Ottawa swimmers capable of seizing a top-two placement and an Olympic team berth.

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Nepean-Kanata Barracudas’ Julie Brousseau is ranked in the top five in Canada in three of her six scheduled races. Regan Rathwell and Ashley McMillan, both with the Greater Ottawa Kingfish, also are ranked in the top five in their specialties.

Brousseau, a multiple-medal winner at the 2023 world junior championships with two silver and five bronze medals, enters the Olympic trials with the fourth-best Canadian time this season in the 400-metre freestyle (four minutes, 11.38 seconds) and the 400-metre individual medley (4:38.45). She also has the fifth-ranked time in the 200-metre freestyle (1:58.10).

McIntosh, a four-time world champion and the 400-metre IM world record holder, will be the favourite in each of Brousseau’s three main races, which leaves several talented national swimmers battling for the FINA qualifying time and second place.

“This is the pinnacle. She’s progressing at the right time and has taken advantage of the opportunities Swimming Canada has presented her. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Barracudas’ head coach Scott Faithfull said about Brousseau.

If there’s any anxiety, Faithfull is confident Brousseau, who has committed to the University of Florida for the 2024-25 academic year, is well prepared for that challenge.

“The biggest thing to realize is it’s really nothing different than another meet,” he explained. “She has done the training, done the practising and part of the training is to make sure all the bases have been covered.”

If needed, Faithfull can bring a sense of calm before the races and help her clear her thoughts.

Regan Rathwell. File photo

Rathwell, who completed her second year at the University of Tennessee this week, is entered in the 100- and 200-metre backstrokes, but her best Olympic team shot is in the later race. She is ranked fifth in Canada for the 200-metre backstroke at 2:12.08, while Masse is No. 1 at 2:07.13. The second- through fifth-ranked swimmers have times ranging between 2:10 and 2:12.

Health issues and injuries affected Rathwell in her first two years at Tennessee, but she qualified for the NCAA championships this spring.

“She has a good outside shot of making the team,” Jason Allen, the Kingfish perform lead coach and program director, said about Rathwell.

McMillan will compete in the women’s 200-metre IM, the 100-metre backstroke and the 100-metre breaststroke. She’s from Penticton, B.C. and represents GO, but trains at the High Performance Centre Ontario in Toronto.

McMillan’s best chance to make the Olympic team comes in the 200-metre IM, where she is ranked fourth with a time of 2:11.44. McIntosh owns the top time at 2:06.89, while the next two swimmers are in the 2:08 and 2:09 range.

“We’ll look to be in the final and race Summer McIntosh to get the second spot,” Allen added. “She has an outside shot as it’s one of the deepest fields in Canada.

“The first goal is to get on the podium and we hope to sneak into second spot. She made the FINA A standard last year, but she must do it again at this meet.”

While some swimmers will be aiming for the Olympics, the junior-aged athletes (18 and under) will try to qualify to represent Canada at the Junior Pan Pacific swimming championships Aug. 21-24 in Canberra, Australia.

The juniors will swim with the seniors in the morning preliminary events and the swimmers with the best times will advance to the evening finals.

“We have seven 18-and-under swimmers,” Allen added. “It will be a great experience for them. The Ottawa swim scene is doing fantastic with junior development. We’ve got the next wave coming to be the next Julie, Regan or Ashley over the next few years.”

Here is the Ottawa roster of swimmers attending the Olympic and Junior Pan Pacific trials:

Nepean-Kanata Barracudas: Alex Beyea, Jace Borden, Julie Brousseau, Lydia James-Brennan, Yuto Lee, Maya McGhan, Jakub Mikolajczak, Maizie Moustgaard, Keira Mullins, Jacob Pawlak, Alex Pilieci, Jordan Schaepper, Breckin Gormley and David Quirie.

Greater Ottawa Kingfish: Kamal Balaa, Colton Chaires, Finn Clawson-Honeyman, Chloe Danks, Isla Hardie, Annika Hollo, Steven Lett, Ashley McMillan, Vivianne Partridge, Regan Rathwell and Keaton Zhou.

Swim Ottawa: Molly Barber, Isabella Chiumera, Samuel Lanca and Declan Sweetnam.

ROCS: Arthur Galiano, Logan Milne and Finn Tuck.

University of Ottawa Gee-Gees: Brendan Van Herk and Isabel Langridge.

Ottawa Swim Club: Alexandre Perreault.

Ottawa Y Olympians: Grace Lu.

University of British Columbia Thunderbirds: Olivier Risk of Ottawa and Liam Clawson-Honeyman of Gatineau.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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