The Top 20 Most Significant Swimming Stories Of 2016: #19, Canada’s Comeback

Team Canada celebrates bonze in the 4x200m free at the Rio Olympic Games ... the new wave starts to roll - by Patrick B. Kraemer

SwimVortex continues a countdown of the most significant swimming stories of Olympic Year 2016. No 19: Canada’s comeback. Tales of the revival of the Maple Leaf swimmers led, quite rightly, on the four-medals success of Penny Oleksiak at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but the good news runs deeper, with hope of more to come

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It’s a pity that Brittany MacLean has retired, otherwise they really could challenge USA for gold in 4×200 next year in Budapest.


For many years Canada had a tough selection policy and kept going nowhere. For Rio they took the sensible decision of selecting all swimmers who met the FINA standard. The result was the best Olympic performance since 1984. Ok, the men did not produce anything special. Still, they were the best Canada had to offer and they represented their nation with pride and distinction. I wish other nations would show more respect towards their elite swimmers and not impose arbitrary selection standards that diminish the size of the team. Great Britain is the most egregious example of this approach and Australia seems to be going down the same path. Where is the evidence that imposing selection criteria that is over and above the FINA A standard leads to team improvement? In my opinion, all it does is make national coaches and performance directors feel as though they’ve done something constructive to raise standards. It is easy to impose ridiculously tough qualifying times. It is much harder to develop great talent and to produce the goods when it matters most. Canada is a good example of a nation waking up to its senses and doing the right thing by their swimmers whilst also improving performances.

Craig Lord

There’s merit in your argument, long stroke – and when Don Talbot was in Britain in a program tour in the last year of Bill Sweetenham being at the helm there, he suggested that there was no call for overly tough standards for some of the reasons you cite. That was taken on board and in some sense is what Britain has, the hugely tough cut was more a line across pool of performances that looked good for the podium: the actual times it took to make the Rio team for Britain were not as tough come the percentage crunch etc. Beyond that, always good to keep in mind a past where many without a hope of getting to a final made up the numbers on teams selected on the basis of around the FINA A (or similar) times of yore – and in Britain we not only had coaches pressing for that not to be the case but swimmers, too, Paul Palmer and Becky Adlington among those who were open about the “difficulty” and “stress” of being a big hope among few on a team of many, some not wholly wedded to anything but making the team before letting it all slip away. Team culture and program-wide education has steadily changed that down the years, of course, so circumstance does indeed allow today what might not have been wise yesterday.

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