By Martin Boyce
Reading the Canada Games nomination email over and over, 13-year-old Greater Ottawa Kingfish swimmer Regan Rathwell was overcome with emotion. A dream, that only recently seemed like a true possibility, became reality.
“I was in tears honestly,” recounts Ontario’s youngest Canada Games swimmer. “I read the email over and over and then I just burst into tears I was so happy.”
The Ottawa native has only been swimming competitively for 5 years but has made immense strides since choosing the pool over pre-competitive gymnastics.
Rathwell earned her Canada Games spot in the 100-metre backstroke and was the second highest-rated Ontario girl based on Swimming Canada’s On Track performance evaluator (an analytics-driven system that measures athletes’ performances in various events at given ages to identify potential future stars).
“It just makes me really happy and hopefully it helps me out down the road,” adds the former Carleton Place Dragons swimmer who lives on the western edge of Ottawa.
The high points earner from the Eastern Ontario regionals in February and June, Rathwell sees the Canada Games as the perfect opportunity to thrive on the momentum she’s gained from her strong year.
“It’s probably been one of the best seasons I’ve had because I changed to this team (GO Kingfish) and proved a lot while I was here,” underlines the 5’ 8” athlete. “My times have been getting a lot faster.”
Rathwell, who’s appreciative of her family’s endless support, recognizes her Canadian Age Group Championships 100 m breaststroke gold medal last year as a defining moment in her young career. She says it was then that she realized she was a top swimmer.
“To go to the Olympics, that’d be insane,” Rathwell signals. “That’s just a dream that I have every night. It would just make me very happy.”
Rathwell will be joined by another pair of local swimmers: Gaël Shindano, a Special Olympics swimmer who trains with the Ottawa Swim Club, Ottawa Otters and Natation Gatineau, and Nepean-Kanata Barracudas swimmer David Quirie.
Quirie’s nomination to Team Ontario came as a surprise to the 15-year-old. He didn’t make the grade in his signature 200 m backstroke event, but later punched his ticket to Winnipeg through the 400 m freestyle.
“I didn’t really expect myself to get nominated for that, but it happened, so I was pretty excited and surprised,” signals Quirie, whose time in the 400 m free placed him 11th overall in the age 14-16 category at the Eastern Canadian Championships.
“This is probably the biggest achievement I’ve had in my swimming career thus far,” he adds. “I’m definitely looking forward to training with all the other great swimmers from Ontario and to be able to make new friends with the able-bodied and other para-swimmers.”
Quirie aims to follow in the footsteps of his older siblings, who have both moved on to swim competitively for their respective universities.
“They definitely inspired me to start swimming,” indicates Quirie, who also aspires to move past his siblings. “My biggest goal would be to make it to the Olympics or have the chance to compete in high-level meets for the Canadian national team.”
Team Ontario diver recently debuted for senior national team
While many athletes use Canada Games as a launching pad towards higher levels in their sports, diver Henry McKay has already springboarded himself onto greater heights (figuratively and literally).
The Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club product made his senior international debut for Canada at a May FINA Grand Prix series event in Puerto Rico, narrowly missing the 6-man final after advancing through the preliminary round.
Recently crowned Canadian 1 m champ in the age 16-17 division, McKay has now setup shop full-time at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough. He says he’d like to achieve personal-best scores and win a medal for Ontario at the Canada Games.