While everyone in the world has been glued to their TVs watching the swimming events in the 2012 London Games, some Fort St. John Inconnu Swim Club members have been making a splash of their own in Calgary for the Canadian Age Group Championships July 25-30.
As world records are broken across the Atlantic, local swimmer Skyeler Kerr broke a national one on his own last Wednesday during his very first race, winning the gold medal in the 15U Boys 100-metre Butterfly event.
“I knew I was going a bit quicker because I was racing beside my one friend who has been top in Canada for that race pretty much the whole year,” Kerr explained on Wednesday, “So I knew what speed it would’ve been to have to beat him and around what time, but it’s never the same until you’re at the end and you can actually see it.”
Still bobbing in the pool after the sprint, Kerr heard the announcement that he broke the national age group record.
“It was very inspirational,” said Kerr’s coach Steve Sadownik. “It was nice because it was the first day and it really helped to set the tone. It was amazing.”
Kerr went on to win two more gold medals in the 200-m Free and 200-m IM, as well as two silver medals in the 100-m Free and the 50-m free, and he only lost the gold in both of those by 5/100 and 3/100s of a second or else he would have returned to Fort St. John with five gold medals.
Sadownik’s colleague, who coaches some of Canada’s Olympic swimmers, heard about Kerr’s medals in Calgary and informed Sadownik that the 13 year old’s times were better than those of the current Olympian swimmers when they were his age.
“That says a lot,” Sadownik said. “This is probably the biggest story we’ve had this year by a long shot.”
When asked if he thought Kerr would ever represent Canada at the Olympics, Sadownik replied, “Everything sure indicates it.”
Kerr, however, is humble about his accomplishments and although he dreams about being the next Ryan Lochte or Brent Hayden, he’s keeping his eyes on the nearer future.
“My goal next year is to just try to do better at [nationals] and make more qualifying times for westerns,” he said.
Then with a smile, Kerr added, “Rio’s in four years. That would be pretty sweet.”
By the time the Rio 2016 Summer Games begin, Kerr will be 17 going on 18, and although Sadownik has no doubt in his mind that Kerr will be on the national team by then, there are some local issues that may hinder the swimmer’s journey.
“To get there it’s going to require more pool time than we currently have access to,” Sadownik said. “We really have to go to the City and ask them to give us more, which is a challenge.”
“We have a ton of kids coming up behind him that are on the verge of making their national times that want to be there and want to be doing what Skyeler is and have the talent to do so, so overall the swim team is going to need more pool time if we a) have more kids achieve Skyeler’s level, and b) if we want to be able to support the Skyelers and the Cale [Murdocks]s and the Ben [Blackmon]s.”
Kerr’s teammate Blackmon also did well in Calgary, placing as high as seventh in the 200-m Breaststroke and ninth in the 100-m free, while Wiens did very well at age 16, as she is close to making Olympic qualifying times in a couple of categories. Cale Murdock, 14, was 100 per cent personal best times, which Sadownik said is hard to do under the pressure seen at nationals.
At 13, Kerr still has a long way to go before any Olympic dreams can come true, but he knows it takes a lot of people to help him get there.
“I just want to thank all my teammates helping through the year getting over things,” he said, “And also Steve, Wendy and Nicole for all the amazing coaching over the year, and Megan and Lori our dryland instructors.”