Florida’s Ekk Siblings — Owen, Ethan, and Bella — Set Sights on Canadian Olympic Trials

The next great Canadian swimming family could be developing 1,000 miles south of the border in Tallahassee, Florida.

All three Ekk siblings — 15-year-old Owen, 16-year-old Ethan, and 18-year-old Bella — are headed to the 2024 Canadian Olympic Trials this May in Montreal after combining for 14 cuts.

The Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club (ATAC) trio are the children of Dennis and Liz Ekk, who met while playing college volleyball at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). The pair moved to Florida two decades ago for work.

“The whole family is driven,” Dennis said. “When Bella started to do well, we thought maybe Ethan could do well. By the time Owen came along, he had no choice — we just threw him in the pool.”

Owen, Ethan, and Bella are all about 18 months apart, giving them a sense of camaraderie on their swimming journey. It started long ago when Owen joined the older group for convenience sake to avoid extra pickups and drop-offs. And it continues today, when they make sure everyone’s awake for morning practice before 5 a.m.

“I think it makes it easier because we’re all focused on the same thing,” Ethan said. “It helps us motivate each other.”

“We can all compare times and have competition,” Owen said. “That’s what I like about it.”

Owen gravitates toward sprint events with Olympic Trials cuts in the 50 free (23.88), 200 free (1:53.15), 400 free (4:00.57), 800 free (8:28.12), and 200 IM (2:07.02) while Ethan is more of a distance free and backstroke specialist with cuts in the 200 free (1:50.21), 400 free (3:56.04), 800 free (8:06.22), 100 back (56.69), 200 back (2:00.84), and 400 IM (4:36.75). Although they swim a lot of different events, their overlap in the 200 free makes it fun to compete there. The elder Ethan owns the faster time in the LCM event at 1:50.21 from last month — almost three seconds faster than Owen’s personal-best 1:53.13 from July — but Owen does have the edge in the 100 free (52.23 vs. 52.90).

“As the younger brother, it’s always a competition to always beat my brother,” Owen said. “I always have to try to be better than my brother in everything I do. It’s just something I feel like all brothers have that connection.”

Along with their unique ability to hold each other accountable and motivate one another, the Ekk siblings owe part of their swimming success to their balanced approach to the sport. Bella also played volleyball growing up, and the boys tried everything from wrestling to tennis to flag football to soccer. When Owen was 12, he actually had to pick between swimming and gymnastics. Last summer, he and Ethan took up golf in their free time away from the pool.

“One thing swim teaches you is time management,” Ethan said. “If you get really good at that, you’re not really stressed out about practice and school all the time, and you can find that free time.”

Bella is wrapping up her senior year at Maclay High School, where she earned runner-up finishes in the SCY 100 free (49.69) and 200 free (1:46.64) at November’s FHSAA Class 1A State Championships. After Canadian Olympic Trials in a couple months — where she holds cuts in the LCM 50 free (26.15), 100 free (56.19), and 200 free (2:02.06) — she’ll leave her brothers behind to join Auburn this summer. The Tiger women are coming off a 4th-place finish at the SEC Championships last week, their best result since 2016.

Dual citizens of both the United States and Canada, the Ekks have presumably declared their allegiance with their attendance of May’s Canadian Olympic Trials. However, there’s a caveat: Even if Owen makes the Junior National Team and competes at Junior Pan Pacs in August, he won’t turn 16 until September — meaning he should still have time to switch his sporting citizenship without being subject to a three-year waiting period.

Asked about the possibility of competing for different countries in the future, Bella said the siblings haven’t discussed the idea yet.

“I think we’ll probably stick together and all be on one team,” Bella said.

Then Owen interjected.

“If I have the chance to go to the U.S., I feel like I would take that,” he said.

Just another detail to be sorted out during dinner conversations — only in the Ekk household.

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1 month ago

All these kids have incredible talent. Would love to see them swim on any international stage. Good luck to them!

Curious George
Reply to  cosmicpotato1315
1 month ago

I would love to see them representing AMERICA! They are AMERICANS! Be proud of our FLAG!!!

Melissa T
1 month ago

As a parent of a retired swimmer I would be so proud of my child to have this opportunity. Especially if they get to represent a country where their family origin began. And to have all three siblings able to compete at this level together is awe inspiring. Maybe we should support our youth and encourage them. I would hate for my children or family members to see people bringing them down just because they can’t or will never experience an accomplishment at this level.

1 month ago

The relevant swimming/sporting equations are really quite simple:
If I want to go to the Olympics, the easier path is trials with TEAM Canada;
If I want to get the best training for getting to the Olympics, the better path is with TEAM USA;
Conclusion: Swim in USA for training purposes, esp. NCAA; then, pop up to Canada for Olympic Trails.
QED: you get to go to Olympics as a Canadian who trains in USA.

1 month ago

It’s purely the “if I can rep the US, I’d like to” comments, then make that the goal. Don’t use Canada as a means to an end.
A lot of my opinion on this was solidified as I watched Condorelli win 50 Fly Canadian Trials in 2015 on Day 1 and start his interview off by saying he was nervous as it’s his first time here and new to the country.
You should represent the country you represent in your day to day life. You don’t have to live here or be born here to be a Canadian, just don’t fake a connection if it’s not there.

Reply to  Jesh
1 month ago

i bet your sweating while writing that and haven’t taken a shower in about a month.🤫🧏🏼‍♂️

1 month ago

These Canadian tears taste like maple syrup. Yum!

1 month ago

Yall are on here bashing an 8th grader for an answer to his question, he grew up in the US obviously he wants to represent the country he’s lived in his entire life. Also to those saying it takes away another swimmers spot even though it does I think Canada swimming wants to take their fastest swimmers no matter where they live or where they train.

Curious George
Reply to  Water
1 month ago

Don’t know if they were born in Canada or not. But it’s about being proud of representing a flag, regardless of which one it is. I’m sure parents have a big say on this topic and even got their authorization for this article to come out. Canada or USA want to take faster swimmers that WANT to represent them. This is upsetting in many levels.

Reply to  Curious George
1 month ago

I can promise you that Canada will take the faster person over the person who wants to represent the country more. I also don’t see him specifically saying he doesn’t want to rep Canada he’s just saying if he had the choice he would choose the USA

1 month ago

A number of commentators below make the statement that you have to stay and train your whole life in Canada and that spots are being taken from Canadian swimmers who have done so versus Americans or other Nationalities with multiple citizenships who get to “pick”. Given that a significant number of Canadian swimmers go to the USA for college swimming does that mean they should not swim for Canadas national team. Likewise if a dual citizen comes to Canada in middle school they also won’t have lived in Canada or swam in Canada their whole life so should they not be eligible. Then look at from the USA standpoint. I’m not arguing for this but when Canadian swimmers go to… Read more »

Reply to  Anony
1 month ago

Joseph Schooling played his card well. …..elite swimmer. got some of the best training in the US. competed for Singapore (which came with the strings of having to serve in their military…). got gold. got PAID!

1 month ago

There is a reason why the national anthem is sung at the start of the finals

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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