Lili Ibañez, one of two Mexican swimmers who have qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, is heading west to train with the Canyons Aquatic Club in the Santa Clarita Valley in California. The club is led by head coach Coley Stickels.
With her move, the majority of the Mexican Federation’s best swimmers now train in the western United States, with the country’s other Olympic qualifier Long Gutierrez currently an undegraduate on Cal’s collegiate team, and National Record holder Fernanda Gonzalez training with Missy Franklin in Colorado.
Ibañez is about a year removed from swimming her last meet for the Texas A&M Aggies at the 2015 NCAA Championships, and she’s remained in College Station, Texas to train until this point. She’s primarily a sprint freestyler with lifetime best of 25.23 in the 50 free, 55.70 in the 100 free, and 2:00.37 in the 200 free in long course meters.
That makes her a natural fit for Canyons, where she’ll train alongside two of the world’s top young sprinters. One is Canadian Santo Condorelli, who ranked 4th in the world in 2015 in the 100 long course meter free and is currently on a redshirt year from USC to train with Stickels. The other is American Abbey Weitzeil, who in short course is the fastest 50 yard freestyler in history and the second-fastest 100 yard freestyler in history. Weitzeil, who has deferred her enrollment to Cal for a year, is the second-fastest American 100 freestyler this year behind only distance ace Katie Ledecky.
“Coley’s philosophy of sprinting and training was a great fit for the events I’m going to swim in Rio, he has a reason behind every yard we swim and I’m training with some of the best sprinters in the world,” Ibañez said of her new training ground.
As for her former coach, Texas A&M’s Steve Bultman, Ibanez spoke glowingly of her time in the program, saying that “(he) is a coach that I believe every swimmer should experience in their life. He doesn’t only train world class swimmers, but he grows successful people. I would not be who I am in and out of the water without him. He is my hero.”
“I would like to thank he Texas A&M Athletic Department for giving me the opportunity of earning a undergraduate degree and a master’s degree, and also the Canyons family and Coley Stickels for the warm welcome in the state of California,” the 2012 Olympian said. She expects to complete her master’s degree in land & property development in December.
Ibañez placed 9th in both the 50 and 100 freestyles at last year’s Pan American Games in Canada, which is where Mexico sent most of its top swimmers instead of the World Championships. While Mexico currently only has two swimmers qualified for the Olympics, Ibañez says that the country is taking 21 swimmers to the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte in just over a week with the hopes of qualifying more. Mexico has set the standard of the FINA “A” time for Olympic qualification.