Fol­low­ing the path set by Olek­siak, Cha­put leads next wave of Cana­dian swim­mers

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

If Ok­sana Cha­put is ex­hausted af­ter yet another gru­elling swim­ming prac­tice, she only has to go into her base­ment for a pick-me-up.

On the wall of her Win­nipeg home hangs a photo of her­self with Olympic swim­ming sen­sa­tion Penny Olek­siak, whom Cha­put met in April at the Cana­dian swim­ming tri­als in Vic­to­ria.

“When I walk past it, I al­ways look at it,” Cha­put said of the photo in a phone in­ter­view be­fore her com­pe­ti­tion this week at the Canada Games.

“I al­ways just re­mem­ber meet­ing her and how in­spired I am by her.”

The suc­cess of Olek­siak, fel­low Olympian Chan­tal Van Lan­deghem — who used to swim with Cha­put’s Manta Swim Club — and last month’s world-record set­ter Kylie Masse has rip­pled across the coun­try to young, fe­male swim­mers.

“I al­ways watch their meets be­cause I’m al­ways in­spired by them,” Cha­put, 13, said. “It makes me feel like I can do any­thing while I’m watch­ing them.”

The Canada Games is show­cas­ing a num­ber of young swim­mers who could be the next wave of fe­male stars. The swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion is for girls up to age 15 and boys up to 16.

Cha­put has al­ready been turn­ing some heads this year.

She’s achieved six Swim­ming Canada on-track times for 13-year-old girls in the 50-me­tre freestyle, 100 free, 200 free, 100 but­ter­fly, 200 in­di­vid­ual med­ley and 400 IM. On-track times are marks pre­vi­ously ac­com­plished at par­tic­u­lar ages by swim­mers who’ve made world or Olympic teams.

Cha­put’s Manta coach, Szil­vie Car­riere, said she can’t

think of any other 13-year-old girls in Canada who are on track in six events.

“I would say she would be the only one,” said Car­riere, who’s also a Team Man­i­toba coach at the Canada Games and used to coach Van Lan­deghem.

Reach­ing those times has put Cha­put on Swim­ming Canada’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion team, which could pro­pel her into in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Right now, though, she’s find­ing out if her prepa­ra­tion for the Games pays off. She’s com­pet­ing in a full slate of seven in­di­vid­ual races and five re­lays,

in­clud­ing the six events she has on-track times for.

Car­riere pre­dicted the five­foot-six Cha­put could medal in three freestyle races, the 50, 100 and 200. She’s ranked No. 1 in the coun­try in her age group for the 50.

Tues­day night, Cha­put ticked one of those medals off the list by win­ning gold in the 100 free in a time of 57.47. On­tario’s Hanna Hen­der­son, 15, picked up the sil­ver, while Brook­lyn Elizabeth Douth­wright of New Brunswick and B.C.’s Jes­sica Luo tied for third.

Hen­der­son, a 5-11 com­peti­tor

from Mis­sis­sauga, also won sil­ver in the 200 but­ter­fly. Lora Wil­lar, 14, of Pointe Claire, Que., claimed the gold and Que­bec team­mate Jeanne Dah­men fin­ished third.

Douth­wright, 14, came to the Games with a no­table achieve­ment. When she was 12, she be­came the youngest per­son to swim the 14-kilo­me­tre Northum­ber­land Strait from N.B. to Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

One of the com­peti­tors Cha­put’s keep­ing an eye on is Ed­mon­ton’s Emma O’Croinin.

“She’s one of my big­gest ri­vals be­cause she’s re­ally fast,”

Cha­put said.

The 14-year-old O’Croinin also got her Games off to podium ap­pear­ances, claim­ing gold Mon­day in the 1,500 free and a sil­ver in Tues­day’s 400 med­ley.

Notes: Van Lan­deghem, who won a bronze medal with Olek­siak in the 4x100 mixed freestyle re­lay at last month’s world cham­pi­onships, is at the Games. The mas­ter’s stu­dent in clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba has joined the team of clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists of­fer­ing ser­vices to the ath­letes.

CP PHOTO

Man­i­toba swim­mer Ok­sana Cha­put trains at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba for the Canada Sum­mer Games in Win­nipeg on Sun­day.

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