Mackenzie Bannister

Terrace Bluebacks see Olympic inspiration

2012 Olympic Medalist Brent Hayden was on hand at a recent swim camp in Kitimat

Terrace swimmers learned valuable lessons about life in and out of the pool during this month’s Swim BC regional camp in Kitimat.

Seven Terrace Bluebacks attended the camp, after eight qualified last year – one is recovering from a broken arm.

“It was a great way to kick off our season,” said coach Mike Christensen via email last week.

One of the highlights was “the incredible opportunity of having 2007 World Champion and 2012 Olympic Medalist Brent Hayden assisting throughout the weekend. He is not only one of the great champions of Canadian swimming, but demonstrated amazing ability as a communicator and coach. His stories of perseverance and determination had the kids mesmerized.”

That’s true for Bluebacks Mackenzie Bannister and Bella Lang, both 11, speaking during swim practice Oct. 21.

“It was really cool to know his story,” said Lang. “He told us about his struggles and going to different places.”

Part of that struggle was a tough time focussing when he was younger, added Bannister, something she said she understands.

She said he told the group focussing will get easier as they get older.

“He told us since he’s not swimming anymore, that he’s retired, he has other stuff to keep him busy. He’s making a children’s’ book and he’s in a company with the United States for a granola bar,” said Lang.

“He was in a commercial for Powerade,” said Bannister.

The two were inspired by a story Hayden recounted about his gold-medal win.

“When he got his medal, his gold medal, his grandpa was dying at the time and he went to see his grandpa for the last time and said ‘I’m going to win a medal for you,’” said Lang. “And then he won his gold medal.”

Bannister, who has been competitively swimming for two-and-a-half years, said she got to spend some one-on-one time with Hayden on the first day because an ear infection meant she couldn’t swim.

During that session, her first with an Olympic medalist, he helped her with her butterfly technique, telling her to bend her arms a little bit more, something she said has helped her time already.

“He really helped me with my fly,” she said.

Hayden “had a good sense of humour” and was easy to be around, she said.

Lang added that he helped the group with their dives and freestyle techniques. Another highlight for the girls was the chance to see themselves swim on video, and both say that will help their training this season.

“Seeing yourself swim through it, there was a camera in the water,” said Bannister. “When we went through, [the cameraman] would rewind it so we’d be able to see ourselves and what we needed to improve on and then one of the other coaches would help us.”

It wasn’t just the Olympic experience that the swimmers took away from the weekend – both said the local and provincial coaches also held helpful training sessions.

“The provincial coach really helped us,” said Lang.

“Our coaches too,” said Bannister.


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