New coach for Saanich national swim centre

The power structure of Canadian swimming is increasingly being centralized in Toronto.

That has led to a big coaching shakeup at the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre-Victoria, at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

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Head coach Ryan Mallette is moving to the hugely successful High Performance Centre-Ontario at the Pan Am Pool in Scarborough, out of which this summer have come 2019 FINA world aquatic championship medallists Penny Oleksiak, Taylor Ruck, Rebecca Smith, Kayla Sanchez and Kierra Smith.

Mallette will become assistant to head coach Ben Titley at HPC-Ontario.

“I’m really excited to be joining Ben at HPC-Ontario. It’s one of the premier programs in the world and I hope I can make it even a little better,” said Mallette, in a statement.

“It’s a great opportunity to go work with what has been the most successful program in Canada for the last few years.”

Taking over Mallette’s head coaching duties at HPC-Victoria will be Victoria NextGen head coach Brad Dingey, who has moved many swimmers up to Mallette’s senior program through the system at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

The Saanich centre proved a steady producer of talent under Mallette.

He took over the program under extremely trying conditions in 2013, following the death from cancer at age 51 of former head coach Randy Bennett, who had guided Ryan Cochrane of Victoria to two Olympic medals at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

Mallette coached Cochrane to his record eighth FINA world championships medal in 2015 and Saanich-based Hilary Caldwell to bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This summer provided a bounty out of Saanich Commonwealth Place with Danielle Hanus winning four silver medals and Faith Knelson silver and bronze last month at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games, Eric Hedlin 5K open-water bronze at the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships and Jade Hannah two gold medals and a bronze at the world junior championships.

Also part of the Saanich Commonwealth Place mix are Mackenzie Padington, Jeremy Bagshaw, Jon McKay and Chantel Jeffrey, all who represented Canada in the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea.

“It has been the best work experience of my life and we love the people here [in Saanich],” said Mallette.

“It was an incredibly hard decision but part of what made my decision a little easier is knowing that Brad [Dingey] is going to do an absolutely fabulous job.”

Yet, there is no doubt about which centre is now the focus of attention as Swimming Canada prepares its team for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“Ben’s [Scarborough] group has been expanding, with eight or more swimmers in contention for the Olympic team. The quality of coaching and time required to support these athletes necessitated additional coaching support,” said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada high performance director and national coach.

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