Canadian Male Junior Relay Initative: The Key To Canadian Relay Success

Swimming Canada has recently established a program to target future success in their international relays by putting together the “Male Junior Relay Initiative” at the hands of national jr. coach Ken McKinnon and high performance director John Atkinson.Two weeks ago was the breakout of this program as the Canadians got to test their relays at the Charlotte Grand Prix in North Carolina.

“We know that our mens relays have been weak for the past couple of years, and there’s been not a huge promise on the immediate horizon so we wanted to do an initiative,” McKinnon said.” We brainstormed it and we  came up with a two parter, the first part as an NFL combine style cam that took place two days after the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pac trials in Victoria.”

The camp was just the beginning of the program, a selection process in order to determine the young talent that would makeup those chosen to hopefully shape the future of Canadian relays. The first step was identifying those who were invited to the camp. McKinnon and Atkinson selected who they thought were the top 40 100 and 200 freestylers based on current rankings. Thirty-two athletes confirmed to attend the program, and they were subjected to quite the camp.

There were three sessions established two identify the talent of the swimmers; a recovery session, a speed test test, and an endurance test set. The swimmers were asked to warmup and do dry-land workouts on their own, and had full access to all the resources at the facility during the three days.

While taking place in the camp they were all being watched,”Our observers were walking around the pool deck, but also in the stands looking at things that weren’t measurable,” McKinnon said. When asked what in particular they were looking for he replied with, “We were looking at in general their physique, maybe limb length, height, feel of the water, underwater dolphin-kicking ability, attention to details, and other characteristics of that nature.”

On the last day of the camp 12 swimmers were selected to take part in the program. These 12 were swimmers that McKinnon and Atkinson thought had a lot of potential to progress in the 100m and 200m freestyles greatly.

After determining the team, the next step was competing and the Charlotte Grand Prix in North Carolina fit perfectly into the schedule. The team arrived a week prior to competition to put in six intense training sessions in order to ready them for the meet.

“The training sessions were all designed to help the swimmers develop tactically in the 100 and 200 free specifically as well as just general training tools,” McKinnon stated.

The Canadians swam fairly well at the Charlotte Grand Prix, placing two teams in the top three on all three mens relays. Although they didn’t come home with any wins as SwimMac Carolina took wins in all three relays, valuable experience was gained and Atkinson said that his swimmers showed true promise.

“We felt the swimmers were really focused and dialed into our messages in regards to the starts and the tactics and the team building within each relay team,” McKinnon said. “We wanted them to go in, in training mode and they didn’t blink, they really stood up and performed.”

The Canadians were unshaved and un-tapered as a whole, yet still posted some great results. The top individual placement of a member of the initiative was Matt Ackman who secured himself a fourth place finish in the 100m breaststroke final in 1:02.89, facing some very experienced breaststroke swimmers such as Mike Alexandrov.

Mckinnon said that he was very impressed by how Stefan Milosevic and Yuri Kisil preformed. Kisil won the B final in the 100m freestyle with a time of 50.71 taking down some very experienced swimmers such as SwimMac’s Cullen Jones, NBAC’s Matt McLean, and Jones’ training partner Dax Hill. Milosevic swam a 1:52.59 to finish in the middle of the pack in the 200m freestyle B final.

McKinnon was also extremely impressed by the time drops swimmers were able to make in the relays. In the 4x200m freestyle relay, McKinnon stated that his swimmers dropped 2-3 seconds off of their expected times following the work they were doing days before the relay. The top Canadian 4x200m freestyle relay came very close to the SwimMac Carolina team, falling to them by less than a second as they touched in at 7:36.43 to SwimMac’s 7:35.77.

The Canadians remained competitive with SwimMac Carolina throughout all the relays. In the 4x100m freestyle relay, the team which included both Milosevic and Kisil wasjust 17 one-hundredths behind SwimMac’s 3:23.92, finishing in 3:24.09.

Some of the swimmers competed individually without the initiative last weekend at the Mel Zajac international where they continued to show some very impressive results. The hope is that these swimmers will continue to develop, and soon put Canada in a competitive position at international meets.

“Five-and-a-half, six years from now, we’re going to be in Rio and these swimmers will be 25 and under,” McKinnon said. With many years to go and a proper plan put into affect, this could be the key to seeing Canada improve their placing in the world scene of swimming.

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About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch worked for 5-years with SwimSwam news as a web producer focusing on both Canadian and international content. He coached for Toronto Swim Club for four seasons as a senior coach focusing on the development of young swimmers. Mitch is an NCCP level 2 certified coach in Canada and an ASCA Level …

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