There’s no place like home.
That’s what’s on the mind of Lyam Dias, who this weekend will be fighting for a spot on the Canadian senior men’s swimming team, and simultaneously, a spot at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, just a few hours drive away from his Ottawa River hometown of L’Orignal, Ont.
Dias is fresh off the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships, where he earned his second Honorable Mention All-America recognition and became the first swimmer from Purdue University to finish the 200 metre breaststroke with a time faster than 1:53.00, a feat he accomplished during the preliminaries.
While some athletes might feel an overwhelming pressure with performing in front of their closest fans, he is eager to use that support to better his performances.
“I don’t feel much pressure it being this close to where I live,” said Dias. “I think it’s great that it’s in our country this year and I’ll have the chance to have friends and family come down and watch. It’s encouraging, actually.”
While the Purdue swimmer didn’t end the NCAA tournament with the greatest success—he finished sixth in the consolation finals—he’s still getting used to his new focus: the breaststroke.
At the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, his only event was the 200-metre individual medley, a discipline that requires swimming equal distances of four different styles.
“That was my first big international meet,” said Dias. “I remember it pretty clearly, it was a really unique experience. I think it gave me some knowledge on how to approach these next ones in Toronto if I qualify.
“I’ve completely switched my focus onto breaststroke now.”
A member of the Pointe-Claire Swim Club in Montreal, Que., the 21 year old was constantly at the pool while not in school as a teen. His principal at L’école secondaire publique Le Sommet in Hawkesbury, Ont., Anne Laflamme, remembers just how busy he was.
“He was very disciplined, he was not the one to go out with his friends,” Laflamme said. “His goal was his training, even as a student already in high school.”
Despite a social life that some teens may consider insufficient, the Pan Am hopeful never found it difficult sustaining an intense daily training throughout his adolescent years.
“You know most people would really struggle with that but I don’t know—for me, it was just a habit from day one in high school so it was just routine,” said Dias. “When I got to college I found a bit more of a social life and a balance between it all.”
With seed times for the Team Canada trials of 1:02.31 and 2:15.68 for the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke, respectively, he sits just under the ‘A’ qualifying times required for the Pan Am events (1:02.79 and 2:19.49).
If Dias simply manages to overcome his competition at the trials, he will very likely be at the 2015 games, a triumph Laflamme feels is by no means above her former student.
“I’m sure he will because he’s so determined … he was always good,” said Laflamme. “He was always winning, and he was always the best at what he did as a swimmer.”
While currently focused on getting to the 2015 Pan Am Games, the Canadian amateur athlete already has one eye toward the future and his next big goal: the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.
“I am going to take next year off of school so that I do not have any distractions,” said Dias. “I can focus all my time and energy and being in the best possible place to qualify for the Olympics next year.”
You can follow Jonathan Soveta on Twitter — @EighteenYards