54th Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet – New UBC Aquatic Centre

2017 Mej Zajac Jr, International

Next Friday, swimmers will dive into the new UBC Aquatic Centre in Vancouver as they begin the 54th annual Mel Zajac Jr. International.  With 515 participating swimmers, this will be the first major event being held in this new facility which opened this year.

In the past this meet has been prominent among many Olympic stars (Leisel Jones, Ryan Lochte, Kevin Cordes, Annamay Pierse, Ryan Cochrane, Hillary Caldwell, Natalie Coughlin, Elizabeth Beisel, Brent Hayden, Brian Johns and Missy Franklin). With the outdoor pool breaking down in February of 2014 due to a critical system failure, the facility was left with no separate warm down pool, and the meet lost a lot of its international allure.

This year the United States will send 11 members of their Junior National team to face head to head with 22 of Canada’s top juniors.   There will be 29 junior swimmers from Alberta competing against 23 from Team BC  promising some good rivalries, and, organizers hope, a return to international prestige.

The new pool was needed on the UBC Campus.  The old UBC Aquatic Centre had been showing signs of wear and tear for years.  The showers did not produce hot water, the heater in the pool was often broken, the hot tub was out of service, and the roof leaked.  Despite its flaws, it still held a special place in a lot of Canadian swimmers hearts.  The old UBC pool was home to 40 Olympian alumni swimmers and 5 current Canadian national team swimmers.  Anyone who grew up in the British Columbia area had grown familiar with the pool.  Driving in to the city of Vancouver and racing at the UBC Aquatic Centre was a privilege.

“The new UBC Aquatic Centre was designed to service campus, community and competition,” according to UBC Aquatic Centre Senior Manager Programs and Operations’ Stéphane Delisle . Over the past four months we have certainly seen students, staff, faculty and residents take advantage of the bright new space.  UBC is excited to work with the UBC Varsity Swimming Programs and the local swim club, VPSC, to deliver our first major event in the facility – the Mel Zajac Jr. International.  This event will be the first of many as the UBC Aquatic Centre looks to work with partners to host local, regional, provincial swimming, water polo and synchronized swimming over the years ahead.  These events will provide access to quality high level competition right here at home reducing the burden of travel on local athletes and their families. Similarly, they will contribute to the development of volunteers, officials as we continue to raise the bar for events at UBC.”

This new state of the art $39M dollar pool should put the Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet back on the map.   The new UBC Aquatic Centre has a 10-lane 50m competition pool, an 8 lane 25-meter pool, and a leisure pool with a lazy river. It also has a 30-person hot tub and sauna and steam room.  This pool will bring the glamour back to the Mel Zajac Jr. International. Next year the meet will be FINA approved and is gaining momentum to be a meet that international medalists come to Canada for.  With the Arena Pro Swim Series meet stopping in Santa Clara the following week, this makes the west coast of North America more attractive to top flight swimmers.

Canadian Olympian Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson trains who is a senior swimmer for the UBC Thunderbirds describes their new training location. “The new pool is world class and I think it’s definitely improving everyone’s training and morale. It’s so much brighter and the facility is clean and we have more training space which is great for everyone. Super excited to break in the pool for its first swim meet ever! I think we are all excited to show it to the world. Although there are lots of great (and not so great) memories associated with the old pool…I don’t think many of us miss it too much. It was its time, and we are just so blessed and lucky to have this world class pool to transition.”

This year, Olympians will be showing up to race and prepare for the summer meets ahead.  Notable swimmers are 2016 Canadian Olympians Yuri Kisil, Markus Thormeyer, Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson, Hilary Caldwell, Kierra Smith , and Rachel Nicol.  In addition, Canada will be sending their male relay swimmers into Vancouver a week in advance for a relay camp.  Those relay swimmers will compete in the meet and practice technicalities in preparation for World Championships this summer in Budapest.

 

 

 

 

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About Kierra Smith

Kierra Smith

Kierra Smith Kierra Smith is a Canadian breaststroke specialist and NCAA champion. Born Feb. 1, 1994 in Vancouver, Smith was a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota and was the 2015 200-yard breaststroke NCAA Champion with the third fastest 200 breaststroke time in NCAA history. University of Minnesota 2012-2013 As a freshman Smith made …

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