Reflections on a final CanadaWest swimming championship

It’s done. I have ticked off one box that I can never tick off again. I have competed in my fifth and final CanadaWest swimming championships. One more meet and then it’s time to hang up the suit and goggles.

For most university varsity swim teams in Western Canada, CanWest is an opportunity to prepare for the last meet of the varsity season, the CIS National Championships. We don’t rest, we don’t taper, and if we’re doing it right, we don’t shave our hairy, mammoth legs that have been growing since the start of September. CanadaWest is just another chlorine filled weekend en route to CIS. It is a chance to see ex-teammates from high school who attend different universities and get some racing under our caps, but other than that it is nothing too spectacular.

I assumed going into my last CanWest that at the end of it I would be filled with a sense of satisfaction and relief. I thought I would be happy and excited to have finally begun wrapping up 14 years of competitive swimming. I’ve felt my passion for the sport fading and transfering to other parts of my life. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, I sat on the pool deck Sunday night having a mini mid-life crisis. The emotion that was circulating through my body was not happiness or completion it was sadness and heartache. The sheer energy I felt over the weekend had thrown my senses for a loop. I was confused to say the least, as I had been so excited to finish the meet and get moving towards CIS in late February. It was there, sitting on the pool deck at the end of the meet, that I realized what had happened over a period of three days.

Unlike the past four CanWests, this one was filled with spectacular feats. I watched my teammates have breakout swims and personal bests but what I was most pleased with was how, over those three long days, I watched an individual sport become a team sport. I saw my teammates rally together and support each other regardless of how fast or slow they were swimming. Every Vikes swimmer that raced had a sea of teammates in “safety green” shirts standing on the side of the pool deck, holding bells and signs reading “shine bright like a diamond,” cheering so loud that after the first day, a few had already lost their voices.

Over that weekend my opinions and ideas of CanWest dissolved. It took me four years to figure out what the point of CanWest is, but I think I’ve finally got it.

CanWest is an opportunity and a privilege to be a part of. Despite the occasional bad race, lost voice or upset coach, it is a chance to witness people break out of their personal bubbles. It is a chance to learn how to rise no matter how horrible you feel in the water. It is a chance to support teammates in their struggle to reach the CIS cut and finally it is a chance to just “throw down” some epic battles in the pool.

 

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