The fourth night of finals at Swimming Canada’s Olympic trials at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre was short with just three races, but it gave Canada six more athletes who are headed to Rio 2016.
While there were plenty of elated individuals, some swimmers admitted they expected more from their performance, highlighting the globally competitive mindset that is now commonplace at the elite level. Canadians expect to medal at international competitions and are looking well beyond national meets.
One swimmer who perfectly illustrated the demands of global greatness was Santo Condorelli, who won the men’s 100-metre freestyle in 48.16 seconds to qualify for his first Olympic Games. The thrill of just winning escaped the Canadian who finished fourth at this discipline in the world championships.
“It was subpar in my opinion,” Condorelli said of his clocking. “(The time) is not really going to cut it when it comes to Rio.”
The 21-year-old can be excused for seeming sensitive to his time, after all, he was just seven one-hundredth of a second off the podium at the world championships in Kazan last year. Condorelli knows what he needs to swim in order to win an Olympic medal.
“I have a lot more to work on … it shows me where I’m at.”
While Condorelli may have been less-than-pleased, he elevated Canada as a whole by forcing those chasing him in the water on Friday to greater speeds. Benefitting most was Yuri Kisil, who came second in the men’s 100m-free in 48.58s, obliterating his personal best by 0.49s. Additionally, Markus Thormeyer (49.38s) was third and Evan Van Moerkerke (49.75s) finished fourth – rounding out the men’s 4x100m-free relay team in Rio.
Kisil candidly thanked Condorelli for giving him an extra gear.
“One of the biggest things, I have to give a shout out to Santo,” Kisil said after the swim. “It’s like coming and swimming against the world’s best, (he) really pushed me to be better … he’s a big reason why I did that so well, my coaches and my teammates of course as well.”
In the women’s 200m butterfly, Audrey Lacroix will be heading to her third Olympic Games after registering a time of two minutes 8.58 seconds. Like Condorelli, she too felt there was more to give.
“The time’s not very good, I think I was a little bit tight,” Lacroix said. “I’m going to look at that with my coach. It’s ok, it’s not a bad race and most important of all it’s under the standard, well under. So that’s all I wanted tonight.”
The 200m-fly Olympic standard of 2:09.33 eluded Katerine Savard, who is having a tough week trying to qualify for individual events, such is the level of depth now at Swimming Canada. Savard finished second to Lacroix, but over the qualifying mark by 1.49 seconds. Presently, Savard – who was fifth in the world in the 100m butterfly – will be going to Rio as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team, earning that spot the previous night in the 200m free.
“It definitely means a lot. I mean this is more of my favourite event, my Canadian record is in this one. So, I mean the time’s not what matters right now,” the 18-year-old said echoing a common sentiment of the evening.
“It’s obviously not where I want to be but I made it on the team, so I can train a lot and get ready for the summer, train and get my best time.”
While Pickrem was already looking to the future, one athlete more willing to enjoy the moment was Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson, who finished second in the 200m IM in 2:12.47 and met the Olympic standard.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 10,” Seltenreich-Hodgson said before receiving hugs and exchanging tears of joy with friends and training partners on the deck. She touched on a tough season last year, making her accomplishment all the more enjoyable.
“The fact that I pulled through and did what I needed to do to get on the team, I am emotional.”
The night showed Canadians are now more demanding than they’ve known to be in recent times, with world class competitors constantly pushing themselves and their teammates to reach new heights. It was also smattered with moments of genuine exaltation.
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This range of emotion and drama continues for two more nights, culminating with the Rio 2016 Swmming Canada team announcement on Sunday evening.