Competing at the Olympic Games has long been a dream for Campbell River swimmer Mackenzie Padington.
But following Team Canada’s March 22 decision to not participate at the Olympics this summer, she’ll have to wait a little longer.
Padington was due to compete at Swimming Canada’s Olympic Trials in Toronto next week where she hoped to secure her ticket to the Games, but the event was postponed with the sport’s national body saying a decision would happen on or before April 21 about when, where, or if the competition would even take place.
The uncertainty has been weighing on the 21-year-old; the Tokyo Games would be her first Olympics.
“It didn’t come as that much of a shock, but it still hurt,” she said by phone from Victoria, Monday.
In an Instagram post Sunday night, she said she was “devastated” by the news, but was fully in support of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s decision.
The Games have been her goal for a while.
“I think they’re always a goal for younger kids growing up,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to, especially seeing Alec Page, who came from Campbell River make the Olympics and with swimming.”
She would love to follow in Page’s footsteps. At 18, the former Campbell River Killer Whales member competed at the 2012 Games as the youngest member of the Canadian men’s swimming team.
Padington’s own Olympic dream started to come into reach in 2017 when she made her first senior national team.
She’s a distance specialist, and her best events are all 200-metres or longer. For the Tokyo Games she was targeting four freestyle races: the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m.
The 1,500m freestyle is a new event for female swimmers and Padington has proved she’s one of the best in the country at it.
During last year’s national trials she won gold in the 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle and 1,500m freestyle.
But it’s really hard for swimmers to train without a pool and both Padington and the rest of her team have been unable to swim since March 17, when their pool closed.
“Swimming is a lot different than other sports. If you don’t do it for more than two weeks, you completely lose all your fitness and your feel of the water,” she says. “So it’s not a fact of keeping up my fitness, because I feel like you can do that. It’s just the fact that I need to keep my feel of the water in order to be able to train fast.”
Last week, she was told by her coach to spend time outside and find other ways to remain active. She’s gone for runs and done ab circuits; she’s gone climbing and hiking.
This week, swimmers have been provided a dryland workout plan to follow.
Before the health crisis and all the unknowns it’s brought to communities across the world, Padington was training almost five hours a day, five days a week.
She would spend Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday doing two swim sessions and a weight session, while Wednesday and Sunday were off.
Now, she’s just doing what she’s able.
“It’s really just trying to get out and do what I can,” she says. “But it’s not nearly as much as I would normally be doing.”
Last spring Padington finished her second year at the University of Minnesota’s Education program, where she was majoring in teaching English as a Second Language. She took this year off to focus on her Olympic dream. In January she announced that she wouldn’t be returning to Minnesota, but instead would continue her schooling and NCAA swimming career at North Carolina State University.
Since no official decision has been announced, it’s not known how her studies may be affected.
“There’s a lot of things up in the air right now with Swimming Canada and the way things are going to run, especially if the Olympics do happen next year,” she says. “So I’m just going to have to kind of wait and see how the cards get dealt to me.”
For now, she says, she’s staying in Victoria and continuing her dryland training.
As of March 23, the dust from Team Canada’s decision was still settling and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had not responded.
The Olympics are scheduled to start July 24, while the Paralympics are set for Aug. 25.
On March 23, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound told the Canadian Press he believes the Games will be postponed. A decision is expected within four weeks.
“I just think that a lot of other countries are going to kind of follow in the footsteps that we just took,” says Padington. “I think there’s going to be a cascading effect that’s going to happen and I think it will force the hand of the IOC to either cancel or postpone the Olympics.”
The Australian Olympic Committee is encouraging its athletes to train for the Games in the summer of 2021, while Team Canada says the national Olympic committees of Norway, Brazil, Poland and Slovenia are also lobbying for a postponement.
In the meantime, Padington says she’s learning to control what she can.
“I’m starting to realize that I can’t control the uncontrollables right now,” she says. “I can only control what’s in my court.”
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