World Aquatic Championships: Padington adopts low-key approach

The majority of attention on the Canadian swim team at the 2019 FINA world aquatic championships in Gwangju, South Korea, is going to Penny Oleksiak, Taylor Ruck and Kylie Masse.

But Mackenzie Padington of Campbell River, who moved to Victoria to train and graduated from Claremont Secondary, comes into the worlds as the new Canadian distance queen after sweeping the women’s freestyle 400-, 800- and 1,500-metre events at the Canadian swim trials in Toronto in April.

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Pool swimming begins today.

Eric Hedlin of Victoria won bronze in the men’s open-water 5K to begin the world championships for Canada last week.

The Canadian team of Hedlin and Chantel Jeffrey, both of Victoria, and Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby and Kate Sanderson of Toronto placed 13th Saturday in the open-water 5K mixed relay as Germany won gold.

Padington said she is trying more of a low-key approach this time in the pool.

“I made the mistake the past few years coming off the NCAA championships [Padington swims in the Big Ten for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers] tired and drained, and then put too much stress on myself during international events,” she said. “Stamina is very important in my distances. I’ve learned to balance everything, and protect my body and maintain a sense of calmness.”

There seems to be a fitting symmetry to Islander Padington becoming the new star of Canadian distance swimming after the retirement of men’s 1,500-metre freestyle two-time Olympic-medallist Ryan Cochrane of Victoria.

Padington plans to take a season off from NCAA swimming to concentrate on training over the next year at Saanich Commonwealth Place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. She will rejoin the Golden Gophers program in Minnesota to complete her junior and senior seasons following the Olympics.

“We have such a great training group at the High Performance Centre-Victoria,” Padington said.

She cited three-time Olympian Stephanie Horner as one of her strongest mentors at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

“I feel I have three homes [Campbell River, Victoria and Minneapolis] and it’s amazing the amount of support I get from each place,” Padington said.

“You can’t do this all by yourself. My friends and family on the Island put in so much support in my early years.”

Also competing in the pool portion of the world championships this week with the 25-member national team is Canadian men’s 400-metre freestyle-champion Jeremy Bagshaw of Victoria.

The St. Michaels University School graduate and NCAA Pac-12 medallist out of Cal-Berkeley is known as a veteran battler in the pool will also swim with the Canadian 4x200 freestyle-relay team.

“That relay team used to be historically strong for Canada, but has had a weak few years recently, and we want to build it back up and finish in the top-12 here at the worlds. That will qualify the team for the Tokyo Olympics next year,” said Bagshaw, who also trains at Saanich Commonwealth Place with HPC-Victoria.

SPLASH NOTES: Diving provided Canada with its second and third medals of the world aquatics championships, after Hedlin’s open-water bronze, as Jennifer Abel and Francois Imbeau-Dulac of Quebec won the silver Saturday behind champion Australia in the mixed three-metre synchro event. Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu had earlier won silver in the women’s three-metre synchro to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics . . . The Canadian women’s water-polo team lost 5-4 to the Netherlands and failed to advance to the quarter-finals and can finish no higher than ninth.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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