Friday, May 9, 2014

Developments and Changes In Canadian Swimming

Back in December, I posted this article in regards to the lack of scoring and relays at Canadian Swimming Trials in April. At the time, I was calling for a real Canadian Club Championship. When I was writing this post, I had reached SNC for comment. The following is an excerpt from that quote: 

"Swimming Canada designated meets that feature team titles, scoring and relays are the Speedo Eastern and Western Canadian Swimming Championships, Canadian Swimming Championships (Summer Nationals) and Canadian Age Group Swimming Championships.”

In an email received Tuesday, SNC has addressed their review of the Canadian Eastern and Western Championships and have decided the following: 
  • The meet will now be LC in order to create a positive ‘step-wise’ LC preparation progression towards Trials and Summer competition.
  • The meets will only offer Olympic Distance Events.
  • There will be no championship categorization and therefore no championship banners.
I do not disagree with the reasons to change this to a long course meet (I actually really like the idea and think it is overdue), I am baffled by removing off Olympic Distance events (Stroke 50s and off distance). Clearly Ryan Cochrane has the 800FR on lock so I guess we're okay not offering that one, but I feel that this is a missed opportunity to encourage speed and racing. 

In a phone conversation with an SNC employee earlier today, it was highlighted that Easterns and Westerns were being used as a preparation and development for future racing. Given that statement and John Atkinson's request for no resting or shaving until Trials, I would think that coaches would like the opportunity to race in 50s to develop and train some speed. The final decision, however, is that stroke 50s and off distance FR events will no longer be offered at Eastern and Western Canadian Championships. Coaches need to take note of this, as I was told in the previously mentioned conversation that there are no plans to revise the existing standards until 2016. This means that the times will still exist on the National Times grid, but will not be eligible for entry into the meet. The confusing thing here is that they seem to be available events at Canadian Age Group Championships and Senior Nationals. I do not understand the inconsistency.

It should also be noted that Canadian Sprinters are not that fast compared to the rest of the world. This is clearly something that we could be working on and fostering if, for no other reason, to make for FASTER athletes. When Ben Titley arrived in Canada last season, SNC posted a story on their site which states his hope for Canada to be able to improve on these shorter events: "He also hopes to focus on specializing athletes for shorter distances, noting that the bulk of medals at international competitions come in 50-metre, 100-metre and 200-metre events." I feel that by eliminating the stroke 50s and off distance, especially at this time of year, is a missed opportunity to have these swimmers race and swim fast - to work on speed. It certainly doesn't help while working towards the 50-metre distances referenced above.

I am also concerned by the removal of another SNC Championship meet. As it stands right now, Canada is left with 2 Championship meets - Age Group Championships and Summer Nationals. My simple point here is that they removed one earlier in the year and said not to worry because there were 4 others... 5 months later and there are only 2 others.  I was advised by SNC that having a championship meet around a time that they are requesting preparation for better swimming later in the season (Easterns and Westerns) sends a mixed message. This statement makes sense and I do not disagree - however, it is worth noting that the disappearing championship meets are not being replaced.

It is clear that change is needed in Canadian Swimming and John Atkinson surely is delivering on his promise of organization and change. It will be interesting to see how this impacts summer racing, as there will surely be University swimmers who will shave and taper for NCAAs or CIS only weeks before Trials. Understanding that you can't control everything is essential when planning forward and creating coaches and swimmers at a younger age that are used to this type of periodization may be the key to our success. 

Having said that, I still do admire the racing and championship atmosphere that exists elsewhere in the world and would like to see more short sprint events (sprint coach bias) and opportunities for clubs to compete for championships. I agree that having a championship meet during prep time does send a mixed message, but I don't think the timing of Easterns and Westerns is in stone. Wouldn't it also make sense to change the timing of those meets and hold a different LC racing opportunity during prep time?