Scarborough swimmer ready for the deep plunge

For swimmer Paige Schultz, four years between Olympics have passed by in a flash.

Things are not about to slow down for the 20-year-old, though, with trials for the upcoming London games set to begin Mar. 27 in Montreal.

I’m as prepared as I can be

— Paige Schultz

“It’s crazy how fast it’s come,” she said in an interview Friday at a doughnut shop near her East York home. “2008 feels like yesterday and the last Olympic trials feel like yesterday.”

And it’s a test she is relishing this time around.

“I think I’m as prepared as I can be,” said Schultz, a bronze medal winner at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico with the Canadian women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team.

About Paige Schultz

Born: July 26, 1991

Birthplace: Scarborough, Ont.

High school: Graduated from Harbord Collegiate Institute in 2009
Named athlete of year in 2006, 2007 and 2009

Achievements:

  • Placed third in 2009 Junior Pan Pacific Games with time of 2:15.57, breaking previous record of 2:15.61 set in 1990 by Nancy Sweetman in 15–17 age group.
  • Placed third at 2011 Pan Am Games in 4×100-metre freestyle relay with a time of 3:48.37 behind record-setting United States (3:40.66) and Brazil (3:44.62).
  • Member of the Varsity Blues 2010-11 swimming team that guided women’s team to a silver medal at the Ontario University Athletics championships.
  • Defending Canadian Interuniversity Sport 50-metre butterfly champion.
  • Personal best time in 200-metre individual medley with old Speedo LZR suit: 2:15.57; without: 2:16.67.
  • Personal best time in 200-metre freestyle with old Speedo LZR suit: 2:01.10; without: 2:02.11.

Since emerging as a rising talent at the Junior Pan Pacific Games in 2009, where she broke a Canadian record for the 200-metre individual medley in the 15 to 17 age group, Schultz has now set her sights on one of sport’s biggest stages.

“It’s a fun year [the Olympic year], and it’s a big year,” the second-year University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) student said.

Schultz said that her experiences at the Pan Am Games, which took place in October, spurred her on to get focused as early as August for the upcoming trials.

Despite picking up a knee injury in December and competing in the 200-metre individual medley only once since then, she was upbeat about pitting herself amongst some of the country’s best.

“I’m going in under the radar. I’m not a big player but I have the possibility [to contend],” she said.

Uphill battle

Byron MacDonald, one of Schultz’s personal coaches and head coach of the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues, said that Schultz’s chances at the 200-metre individual medley were slim, as she would need to drop her times by a significant amount to make the two-person team.

The standard selection is either from the top two in the country or those in the top 15 in the world, but MacDonald said there are other athletes who currently occupy those spots.

“Thus, she could be third at the trials and not go. We will be swimming that event at the trials, but we’ve realized that it’s not where the best chances are,” he said.

MacDonald said that her best chance lies in the 200-metre freestyle.

With an additional caveat enabling four members to be selected to fill out the relay team, Schultz would have to shave off 2.5 seconds of her current best time of 2:15.57, which she got at the Junior Pan Pacific Games three years ago.

“That won’t even guarantee her a spot due to the other swimmers hoping to improve on their times [as well],” he said.

Nonetheless, Schultz remains fiercely motivated.

“If I make the 200-metre freestyle [final in the trials], it’s not going to be a physical battle for me but a mental one where I’m just going to [say to myself], ‘I can do this and I have to come forth,’” Schultz said.

“I’m only 20, and the average age to make an Olympic team is usually 26.  So I still have one, maybe even two quadrennials left in me,” she added. “I haven’t really thought about it but if I make the Olympic team, I just want to go and represent the team as best as I can and take it all in.”

The entire UTSC community is … behind her

— Scott McRoberts

The health studies student has brought attention to UTSC, and Scott McRoberts, director of athletics and recreation, said Schultz is an example of how school and sports could be balanced.

“I think it’s fantastic for the university and even more important to show that you can be both successful academically and as an athlete,” McRoberts said. “The entire UTSC community is rooting behind her in the pool and out [of] the pool as she comes up to the trials.”