This was not the splash Eric Hedlin was hoping to make as the lead-off swimmer for Canada at the 2017 FINA world aquatics championships in Budapest on Saturday. The Victoria athlete finished 14th in the men’s 5K open-water, an event in which he won the silver medal at the 2013 world championships.
But you won’t have to wait long for another Islander to jump into the fray. Hedlin is among three of the six Canadian team open-water swimmers who train together under Ron Jacks at Saanich Commonwealth Place: Three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner contests the women’s 10K open-water race in Budapest today and 2012 London Olympics bronze-medallist Richard Weinberger is in the men’s 10K on Tuesday.
Pool swimming runs July 23-30 in the Hungarian capital with three more Island athletes on that Canadian unit – 2016 Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Hilary Caldwell of Victoria in the women’s 100- and 200-metre backstroke, Jeremy Bagshaw of Victoria in the men’s 400-metre freestyle and 4x200 freestyle relay, and breakout 18-year-old Claremont Secondary student and Campbell River product Mackenzie Padington in the women’s 400- and 800-metre freestyles.
The six Islanders are part of the overall Canadian swim team in Budapest consisting of 32 athletes, six open water, and 26 in the pool. Sixteen of them are Olympians, including Horner and medallists Weinberger and Caldwell, and nine are rookies, including Padington.
The team was selected during the Canadian trials held in April at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
This is the first major international meet for the Canadian team in the post-Ryan Cochrane era, as the two-time Olympic medallist from Victoria has retired. The national team is now led by teenage sensation Penny Oleksiak, who introduced herself to the country in a big way at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with a gold and three other medals.
Hedlin wanted to give this Canadian team a big start at the 2017 world championships, but it wasn’t going to be among 62 competitors from 40 nations.
Marc-Antoine Olivier of France won in 54 minutes 31.4, Mario Sanzullo of Italy took silver in 54:32.1 and Timothy Shuttleworth of England the bronze in 54:42.1.
“I got boxed in a little bit on most of the second lap, because I didn’t start with a good position,” Hedlin said.
“I could have come top seven if my positioning had been better. It’s a learning experience. I came in here really fit. I just need to work a couple more things. I’m confident for the future, but I’m disappointed in the race.”
Hedlin and Weinberger are University of Victoria computer science students and Horner graduated from UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business with a bachelor of commerce degree, specializing in service management and entrepreneurship. All three open-water specialists have come through the UVic/Pacific Coast Swimming club.
“We’ve got a really good group and we really work well together. We push each other during training and motivate each other to be better all the time,” Hedlin said.
“My love for the sport motivates me,” added Hedlin, whose long-term aim is set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a switch to the 10K open-water event.
Although Weinberger and Caldwell are best known among the current swimmers from Saanich Commonwealth Place, don’t discount 24-year-old Hedlin’s future in the sport.
“Fourteenth in the world is a decent result,” national team open-water coach Mark Perry said. “There are some skills we need to work on with Eric. He knows himself he’s got it in him to be on the podium.”
Diving and water polo are also taking place at the 2017 FINA world aquatics championships.