Swimmer dives for success

Paige Schultz had been anticipating this moment for the last four years.

“It’s crazy how fast it’s come,” the 20-year-old East York swimmer said in a March 9 interview before this year’s Olympic trials in Montreal. “2008 feels like yesterday.”

In the trials that started March 27, Schultz competed in the 200-metre freestyle and the 200-metre individual medley — events that have seen her emerge through the ranks on the Canadian swimming circuit.

However, the second-year health studies student from the University of Toronto Scarborough fell short of making the team selected to compete in London. She came first in the women’s 200-metre freestyle B final with a time of 2:02.14, but placed ninth in the 200-metre individual medley B final with 2:20.32.

“It’s not what I wanted, but I will have to take it,” Schultz said after the trials.

Her coach Byron MacDonald had an equally frank assessment.

“Paige swam near her best time in the event we focused on, but we both knew it would take a best time by a bunch to move up the ladder to make the team,” he said.

Schultz first began making waves at the Junior Pan Pacific Games in 2009, when she placed third in the 200-metre individual medley with a time of 2:15.57, breaking fellow Canadian Nancy Sweetman’s previous record of 2:15.61 set in 1990.

She followed up her previous performance by winning bronze at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara with the Canadian women’s team in the 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).

“I think I’m as prepared as I can be,” Schultz said prior to the trials. “I’m going in under the radar. I’m not a big player but I have the possibility [to contend].”

Despite Schultz’s best efforts, Erica Morningstar of Calgary, who qualified in second with a time of 2:12.99, and Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ontario, who won the trial in 2:12.78, will represent Canada in the 200-metre individual medley.

Samantha Cheverton of Pointe-Claire, Quebec (1:57.98), and Barbara Jardin of Montreal (1:57.34) will contest the 200-metre freestyle event, with Brittany MacLean of Etobicoke and Amanda Reason of Windsor rounding out the 4×200- metre freestyle relay team.

Canada will be sending its largest swimming team ever to the Olympics with 31 athletes qualifying at this year’s trials.

Schultz, however, is optimistic for the future even before the trials began.

“I’m only 20 and the average age to make an Olympic team is usually 26,” she said. “So I still have one, maybe even two quadrennials left in me.”

MacDonald said Schultz’s goal now is to get back to training and work her way back into the national team.

With the Pan Am Games coming to Toronto in 2015, the attention on Schultz has not been lost at the Scarborough campus, which is adjacent to where the competition’s aquatic centre is to be located.

“I think it’s fantastic for the university,” said Scott McRoberts, director of athletics and recreation. “It’s even more important to show that you can be both successful academically and as an athlete.”