The Canadian Age Group nationals have served as a staple meet for young swimmers all across Canada for decades. The qualification process has always been fairly simple, qualify for your event and compete at nationals. You could take a certain number of bonus events as well based on the number of events you actually qualified in.
Last year Swimming Canada changed their regiment for the qualification process regarding the meet and made it even more difficult for Canadian age-groupers to qualify. Swimming Canada passed the rule that every swimmer must qualify for three individual events to be eligible to compete at the mid-summer meet in hopes of encouraging age-groupers to qualify for more events. As a result of the new rule however, Swimming Canada saw a huge decline in the number of qualifiers. Swimming Canada declined to comment on the issue.
At the 2012 age group nationals in Calgary, there were 818 male athletes, 771 female athletes, making a grand total of 1589 athletes. At the 2013 age group nationals after the rule that you must qualify in three events was put into effect there were 385 male athletes, 517 female athletes, adding up to a total of 902 athletes. The huge 43% decrease in athletes is an alarming number, questioning how successful this new rule might be. The number of male athletes competing was reduced by over half from 2012 to 2013.
The 2014 Age Group Nationals are going to be held at the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg from July 23-27. The new national time standards that Swimming Canada releases every season haven’t been released yet, so only time will tell as to what decision Swim Canada has made about their Age Group Championships.
Sticking with the decision might over time help age-groupers in Canada reach success in a larger multitude of events. Currently looking at international competition, Canada has never had a truly great all-around swimmer. Most of Canada’s swimmers have had specific strokes and disciplines that they’ve focused on rather than the large multi-event programs that many Americans have.
Just to name a few of Canada’s greatest swimmers; Brent Hayden focused on sprint free, Ryan Cochrane distance free, Annamay Pierse the 200m breaststroke, Alex Baumann the IM’s, Victor Davis the breaststroke events, and Mark Tewksbury the 100m backstroke. None of these swimmers have shown true diversity in their events although achieving great success in their main races.
Swimming Canada’s new rule could definitely spark an era of Canadian swimmers who are competitive on the international scale in more than one discipline. On the other hand the new rule could act as a discouraging factor for Canada’s youth.
Swimming Canada will make the decision whether or not to carry out with the new rule, where we will have to wait and see the outcome play out.