About Half of Canada’s Paris 2024 Olympic Swim Team Does Not Train in Canada

2024 CANADIAN OLYMPIC & PARALYMPIC TRIALS

Canada’s coaching staff selection procedures received full spotlight this week when the country’s only defending Olympic gold medalist in swimming Maggie MacNeil made a public stand in favor of adding her coach Rick Bishop to Swimming Canada’s coaching staff after she learned that he would not be on the coaching staff for any other Olympic teams this summer.

The issue is whether coaches who work outside of Canada should be eligible to be on the Canadian Olympic Team coaching staff.

Ultimately, Bishop was not announced as a member of that staff, though teenage superstar Summer McIntosh will have her American coach Brent Arckey there as a as a coach (last year he was invited as a “personal support professional,” a careful title that differentiates him from the standard “team coach”).

Her mom Jill was a 1984 Canadian Olympian and her dad Greg is an Executive Vice President at Iron Mountain, a document management company that does over $5 billion a year in revenue, so the McIntosh family has the opportunity for a lot of influence from more-than-one direction.

Most countries of the world do allow foreign coaches on their staffs. For many of the major swimming nations like the US, Great Britain, China, Japan, and Australia, it’s not an issue because the overwhelming majority of their teams are home-grown. Some, like the U.S., do have citizenship requirements – and U.S. coaches must be registered coaches of USA Swimming – but it hasn’t really come up in recent memory.

But many nations’ Olympic coaching staffs are littered with coaches from the above-mentioned countries, where most of their top swimmers train.

That is less-restrictive than Canada’s rules, which read in part:

Those rules prevent, for example, a coach from filling out the paperwork and paying the fee and being eligible because of resident and achievement requirements.

Canada occupies a unique position in swimming. They are considered a ‘major swimming nation,’ finishing 6th on the medals table at the World Championships; but the majority of their best swimmers train internationally.

Here’s the breakdown of the Olympic Team (as best as public information allows). In total, 14 members prepared for Trials training mostly in other countries, while four are heading to the US next year. Javier Acevedo went to college at Georgia but has been back in Canada for a while, while Angus was born and raised in the US, attended college there, but returned to Canada to train at the High Performance Centre in Ontario in 2022:

Used to train abroad, now in Canada Currently trains abroad Committed to train abroad for college next year Trains in Canada and most-always has
Javier Acevedo (Georgia) Alex Axon (USA) Julie Brousseau (Florida) Mary-Sophie Harvey
Sophie Angus (Northwestern, born in the US) Jeremy Bagshaw (Ireland) Ella Jansen (Tennessee) Apollo Hess
Brooklyn Douthwright (USA) Emma Finlin (Ohio State) Yuri Kisil
Patrick Hussey (USA) Lorne Wigginton (Michigan) Finlay Knox
Tristan Jankovics (USA) Emma O’Croinin
Ilya Kharun (USA) Rebecca Smith
Josh Liendo (USA) Blake Tierney
Maggie MacNeil (USA) Ingrid Wilm
Kylie Masse (Spain) Kelsey Wog
Summer McIntosh (USA)
Penny Oleksiak (USA)
Sydney Pickrem (USA)
Regan Rathwell (USA)
Taylor Ruck (USA)

Angus is probably the best shining example for Canada to hold up of a swimmer who trained most of her life in the U.S., but didn’t break through until training in Canada.

This creates a difficult duality for Canada. On the one hand, the commitment to the Olympic Team is to put them in the best position to win medals in Paris this summer, which probably includes sending the top swimmers’ personal coaches. On the other hand, they have an obligation to the dues-paying (and tax-paying, remembering that the Olympic movement in Canada is funded by tax money) membership to encourage the development of the sport domestically.

This is a challenge that most large swimming nations face – and one I’ve pointed out as a huge paradoxical problem in a sport where the line between “age grouper” and “professional” is so blurred.

If Swimming Canada started to fill their roster with American coaches, a ‘problem’ (if you view it that way, which you don’t have to) could snowball. A problem of both experience, educational opportunities, resources, and perception of Canadian coaches leading to even more athletes going abroad.

Many of the swimmers on the team will have coaches at the meet. Josh Liendo, for example, trains under Anthony Nesty, who is the head coach of the men’s team for Team USA.

Canada has a good staff that should be able to execute the instructions of personal coaches in the run-up to the games, but that doesn’t answer the bigger existential question. Many of these coaches are Americans too. Both Darren Ward and Byron MacDonald were born in the US to Canadian parents, moved to Canada as young adults, and never left.

Ironically, American could wind up ‘solving this problem’ for Canada. If some of the worse potential outcomes of the NCAA’s current generational questions about paying athletes come true, NCAA Swimming & Diving might come out looking more like the Canadian U Sports system. With so much of the Canadian international training tied up in the opportunities and resources available via the NCAA system, that might make staying home in the U Sports system more attractive to more athletes.

Where is Canada’s Olympic Team Training?

Used to train abroad, now in Canada Currently trains abroad Committed to train abroad for college next year Trains in Canada and most-always has
Javier Acevedo (Georgia) Alex Axon (USA) Julie Brousseau (Florida) Mary-Sophie Harvey
Sophie Angus (Northwestern, born in the US) Jeremy Bagshaw (Ireland) Ella Jansen (Tennessee) Apollo Hess
Brooklyn Douthwright (USA) Emma Finlin (Ohio State) Yuri Kisil
Patrick Hussey (USA) Lorne Wigginton (Michigan) Finlay Knox
Tristan Jankovics (USA) Emma O’Croinin
Ilya Kharun (USA) Rebecca Smith
Josh Liendo (USA) Blake Tierney
Maggie MacNeil (USA) Ingrid Wilm
Kylie Masse (Spain) Kelsey Wog
Summer McIntosh (USA)
Penny Oleksiak (USA)
Sydney Pickrem (USA)
Regan Rathwell (USA)
Taylor Ruck (USA)

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Albertan
30 days ago

I also want to remind that Canadian swimmers that train in USA sacrifice a lot, too. They are away from their families, sometimes are paying more for their education than they would do at home (not everyone has a full ride) and as foreigners, have to comply with a lot of rules. On top of that they are punished by Swimming Canada that doesn’t pay carding money when athletes are students in USA.

Vic Toria
Reply to  Albertan
29 days ago

Sacrifices, perhaps. But these are their choices based on options. They know the rules of both SC and the NCAA. The point is to find a way to retain and perhaps even attract swimmers to stay in Canada.

Interested
Reply to  Albertan
29 days ago

Carding decisions/rules are at Sport Canada level, Swimming Canada doesn’t make up those rules or punish swimmers.

Swumswims
30 days ago

Lorne also going to NCAA next year, not included in above.

Anony
30 days ago

Brayden’s suggestion below of more resources and funding going to the age group programs makes sense. However it doesn’t solve the college/university flight to the ncaa. The hpc criticisms I agree with. It’s primarily a coaching issue but for collegiate athletes educational choice surrounding the hpc is a factor. Ubc and u f t are top global schools and the academic entry standards are high.Toronto and UBC are expensive cities for students. What gets little to know coverage in the comments or in the article itself is the ncaa has its own issues for Canadian swimmers as well as USA attendees. It would be interesting to have a follow up article on how many Canadian swimmers have succeeded in the… Read more »

Vic Toria
Reply to  Braden Keith
30 days ago

Here are some very stark facts for consideration when looking at US vs Canada and they relate to USports investment and keeping homegrown talent and probably more important- developing young Canadian swimmers:

  • Only 4 Ontario Universities have 8 or 10 lane 50M competition pools:
  • University of Windsor (not their pool but city pool built for World SC championships in 2016
  • U of T- Older 8-lane pool in a very dated building with very limited seating and integrated dive tank
  • Brock University in St. Catharines (used for Canada Games) and has limited seating
  • Ottawa/Carleton- they use the Nepean Sportsplex (city owned) pool which is “all things to all people” in the community including 2-3 swim clubs, most notably Nepean Kanata
… Read more »

JimSwim22
Reply to  Vic Toria
30 days ago

Indianapolis is an Unicorn. The whole State of Illinois only has 3 or 4 indoor LCM pills

Vic Toria
Reply to  JimSwim22
30 days ago

May well be but I’d be willing to bet they’re well stocked on 25M/Yds facilities and more per capital water real estate than Ontario.

oxyswim
Reply to  JimSwim22
29 days ago

You’re underselling Illinois a bit, think there are 6. FMC, NW, St. Charles, SIU, UIC, & UIUC. I know many states are in a similar or worse spot though.

oxyswim
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

I goofed. U Chicago, Chuck Fruit, Stevenson High School, and Libertyville High School as well. So at least 10 indoor 50m pools.

Swumswims
Reply to  Vic Toria
30 days ago

Just imagine the situation if the 2 pan am pools in GTA did not exist !!

Swim Ontario has identified only 3 pools in the province (which is now 16M population) as capable of hosting the provincial championships – Markham/Scarborough Pan Am pools (the first of which has no bleachers or warmup/down pool) and Windsor (which has basically zero hotel inventory these days).

All of these are/will soon be at least 10y old.

Vic Toria
Reply to  Swumswims
30 days ago

Prezactly! It would be disastrous. Wait!- it is disastrous!!!!

Alex
Reply to  Vic Toria
29 days ago

To correct your point both Carleton and Ottawa U have 50m pool(a fews team Canada members trained at Ottawa U for a age group club) They are both old facilities but for training there is absolutly no problem.

Just thinking out loud
Reply to  Braden Keith
29 days ago

Spear head two UN programs. Comprehensive UN so lots of course options, reasonable entrance and a LC pool.
They are paying a medium salary right now to a medium coach so fund a head coach to lead as well as a sport science fund that looks after IST
$450,000 is the cost for both
And in 3 years you have 2 more options for elite graduating swimmers
Even better if both those programs are cooperating or affiliated with a club program.

Vic Toria
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

Just to be a bit provacative, you can build a 50M 10 lane Myrtha pool and cover it with a membrane (Sprung structure- company out of Calgary) with all the mechanicals for just under $8M. We don’t need to build multi-purpose facilities all the time. Just give me an empty field the size of a soccer pitch and some room for parking 400-500 cars, and voila!- you’ve got your amazing pool that clubs, communities, schools, first-responders can use and train in. You can have dive certification, water polo, artistic swimming all use the facility and cost of building is minimal. You can even open up the sliding vertical doors in the spring, summer and autumn. Check out Collingwood’a pool in… Read more »

Anony
Reply to  Anony
30 days ago

Before you can answer the question of cost and what to do to improve the program I think you have to start with what is the mandate of the ceo and usports board. If there is not a clear mandate for that individual or individuals to improve Canadian collegiate sports and clear specific goals to meet then there is likely no impetus for change. You have to start with there being an objective and accountability for change. The second requirement is that Usports, Swim Canada and club swimming have to be aligned and collaborating and I can’t say I ever see specific evidence of that. I would also say that usports needs to sell itself as a better value proposition… Read more »

Anony
Reply to  Anony
30 days ago

To be clear I’m not saying it is a better value proposition than the ncaa but I am saying that usports does not promote itself as well as it could.

Joe
Reply to  Anony
29 days ago

How do you build a better USports program when UofT wins every year. 24 years running. They do it because they have the HPC. So, it’s not even fair for McMaster/Western/Waterloo et al. USports are horribly broken. Talk to anyone swimming in it. They’re there, the training sucks and you’re gonna get whumped by UofT, where the cut to be considered for the team is faster than Olympic Trials Cuts. You want to fix it? You need to break up the HPC or render those athletes ineligible for entry to Usports. Then you’ll get mass. As it is, why would any school devote any resources to a program that is literally competing with Swim Canada on Day 1?

North Sea
Reply to  Joe
29 days ago

I don’t believe your facts are correct. Firstly, my understanding is that the U of T team normally trains in an on-campus pool on the St. George campus of the University in downtown Toronto. HPC operates out of the Pan-Am pool about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Toronto, next to the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto). There is no overlap in the swimmers that train with the HPC and the UofT team. Secondly, U of T has dominated OUA championships (the Ontario University Championships) for a long time, not the USports championships. Although, they won both men’s and women’s USports championships this year.

Vic Toria
Reply to  North Sea
29 days ago

You’re correct. In fact, many U of T athletes split up their training by remaining with their club teams throughout the season for convenience as this is considered a normal course of business for them.

Geminem03
Reply to  Joe
28 days ago

None of the UofT members who competed at the last U Sports Championships were part of the HPC. If you want to critique a team that blends HPC and varsity athletes, look at UBC. They train at the same pool, whereas UofT and HPC Ontario operate as completely separate groups.

In my opinion, this kind of dual affiliation could be beneficial if it keeps top swimmers training in Canada. The main appeal of NCAA programs is their strong support for athletic aspirations, something we lack in Canada

HeatFan14
30 days ago

I made a comment on the Worlds threads a while ago asking for an article about this. I mistakenly said that I wanted to see all the medalists that trained in the USA (I should’ve said abroad). All I was asking was to see where all the athletes trained primarily. I was downvoted and ripped to shreds for being a “selfish American who doesn’t want athletes to represent their home country”… This is what I was asking for THANK YOU SWIM SWAM

silly
30 days ago

People forget that Rocky trained in the Soviet Union to fight Ivan Drago but that didn’t make him any less of a patriot.

this guy
Reply to  silly
30 days ago

But he wasn’t trained by Russian coaches while he was there. Soooo….

Sapiens Ursus
30 days ago

Embarrisng 51st state moment

Drew
Reply to  Sapiens Ursus
30 days ago

Embarrassing public school moment.

rajiv
30 days ago

Just another argument for Canada not being a real country.
Many “Canadians” privately know this

Alison England
Reply to  rajiv
30 days ago

Don’t be ridiculous!

But Maybe…
Reply to  rajiv
30 days ago

You’re hilarious. In a bad way.

What about this can of worms?
30 days ago

So little talk of the French and Hungarian superstars and their coaches spending time at the USA Training Center. Is this some sort of diplomatic arrangement? How many American athletes have lost their place at the training center due to this camp? Did no Americans want these lanes? Have any teams been told “no camp for you” the pool is full? Granted there are Americans in the camp as well, but why on earth in an Olympic year would the privately funded training center accept foreign Olympic medalists? Methinks USA Swimming is the training center gatekeeper in this situation. Why would they allow athletes that are going to beat them the advantage of our training center?
Hey Mel, write… Read more »

JimSwim22
Reply to  What about this can of worms?
30 days ago

The pool in Colorado springs is frequently empty

What about this can of worms?
Reply to  JimSwim22
30 days ago

Never empty anymore, and quite busy in the 8-10 weeks prior to Trials for swimming.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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