Island contingent hits pool in Japan at Pan Pacific championships

Mackenzie Padington, who grew up in Campbell River inspired by watching Ryan Cochrane of Victoria win two Olympic medals, continues splashing into the spotlight herself.

Padington, Danielle Hanus of Island Swimming, veterans Jeremy Bagshaw and Peter Brothers of Victoria, along with open-water specialists Eric Hedlin and three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner from UVic/Pacific Coast Swim Club, will represent Canada in the Pan Pacific swim championships running today through Sunday in Tokyo.

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The event, held every four years, features charter nations Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States, along with others invited on a rotating basis.

The 2006 Pan Pacific championships were held at Saanich Commonwealth Place, with the Michael Phelps-led U.S. team setting seven world records.

Canada won seven medals at the last Pan Pacs in 2014 in Gold Coast, Australia. But this Canadian team is vastly different. Island Olympic medallists Cochrane and Hilary Caldwell are now retired, leaving the current Canadian team with an average age of 20.5 years.

The 2018 Pan Pacific meet is acting as a test event for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

That is where NCAA Big Ten University of Minnesota Golden Gophers swimmer Padington is aiming to be. It would be part of the progression for the Island swimmer, who in 2017 received a $10,000 Petro-Canada Fuelling Athletes grant for potential future Olympians.

Padington made the move in 2015 to the Victoria High Performance Centre at Saanich Commonwealth Place after her stint with the Campbell River Killer Whales Club. She graduated from Claremont Secondary in 2017 and is headed into her sophomore NCAA Big Ten season with the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.

“I have so much support from everyone back home in my old swim club,” Padington has said about her start with the Campbell River Killer Whales.

“I know they will always be there for me.”

The Canadian team will be led at the Pan Pacs by Taylor Ruck, an Arizona-raised Canadian by birth, who tied the all-time Commonwealth Games record in April by capturing eight medals in Gold Coast.

The Para portion of the Pan Pacific championships go today through Sunday in Cairns, Australia.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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