Canada’s top Para swimmers including Benoit Huot of Montreal, Summer Mortimer of Newmarket, Ont., and Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver compete at their first big event of the 2011 season, the Can Am swimming championships this Thursday to Saturday at the University of Minnesota, USA.
The competition is the first selection event to determine the Canadian team for the Para Pan Pacific Championships taking place 10-14 August in Edmonton, Canada, and is also considered a rehearsal for the Paralympic Games trials which will be held around this time next year.
‘’Everybody looks good,’’ said Swimming Canada’s Para swimming head coach Craig McCord. ‘’It’s their first major preparation and racing opportunity since December. The Australians and British held their trials this past week so now it’s our chance to stand up and show what we’ve got going.’’
Last season Canada won 24 medals at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, led by Mortimer who collected four gold medals, all in world record time in the S10 category. This past December at the most recent Can Am meet in Toronto, she set another four world marks.
Other Canadian women to watch include Valérie Grand’Maison of Montreal, Canada’s most decorated medalist at the worlds with six podium appearances, Chelsea Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., and Amber Thomas of Drayton Valley, Alta., who posted personal bests in five of seven races at the Toronto Can Am meet.
On the men’s side, Canadian veteran Huot wants to continue his surge from the worlds where he collected a gold, three silver and a world record. Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver and Brian Hill of Vancouver continue to be solid veterans for the Canadian team and should be in the medal mix once again.
The Toronto Can Am meet also signalled that Canada has plenty of depth looking down the road to the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. Young swimmers such as Sarah Mehain of Vernon, B.C., Devin Gotell of Antigonish, Camille Bérubé of Gatineau, Que., Brianna Jennet- McNeil of Ottawa and Adam Rahier of Powell River, B.C., have all made their first dents at the international level and look to take another step this year.
The competition will also feature a strong American team as well as swimmers from Colombia.