RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – This wasn’t the traditional form of success for Canada’s team in the pool here on Thursday.
Nor was it the technical definition by many standards.
Going into Day 1, the goal for coach Craig McCord was making it past prelims and giving the cohort of youthful team members a clear message and goal – qualify for the finals.
“We’ve identified that we need these athletes to be finalists here, and the higher they are in the final the better off we are,” McCord said after the races.
“These young guys Abi (Tripp), and Sabby (Sabrina Duchesne), and Gordie (Michie) and James Leroux and Nicolas-Guy Turbide these are all athletes that will get into the finals and these are the guys that we’ll be working with most intently as we move towards Tokyo in 2020.”
Tripp, a 15 year old from Kingston, Ont., finished sixth in her first Paralympic final, Duchesne, also 15, from Quebec City, narrowly missed this final finishing ninth.
Tripp gave herself a very simple goal coming into these games.
“I wanted to get here, that was the first goal,” she said after the race, with a huge smile on her face. “Make the team and swim a few races. To make the final on the very first day with the 400 free was very exciting,”
Leroux, 18, from Repentigny, Que. and Michie, 22, of St. Thomas, Ont. met their own goals as well as their coaches finishing seventh and fifth respectively in Thursday’s finals.
“I feel amazing,” Leroux said, still breathing heavily after the race. “The fact that this morning I finished eighth and tonight seventh, it was a goal, but my first goal was to make my best time, and I did.”
Michie in his first Paralympics as well, had the best finish for Canada in the pool at fifth, although he still believes he could have done better.
His personal best in the 100m S14 backstroke (1:03.46) was four tenths of a second away from bronze (1:03.42) but he wasn’t able to get there Thursday swimming a 1:05.12.
“Being fifth in a really fast (race) is good,” he said, looking slightly disappointed. “Top 5 in the world, still not probably a good time but it was a better time than it was in the morning.”
His slight disappointment aside, Michie felt confident going into the race and believed he could compete.
“I had a lot of confidence, I knew these guys would push me,” he said. “And whether I came first, second, third or last I mean top 8 in the world, I’m 5th now, it’s a pretty great accomplishment overall.”
Canada has some of its medal contenders hitting the water on Friday and coach McCord was sure his ‘big guns’ would be ready to fire.
“We’ve got Aureile Rivard in her first event, medalist in the world championships last year in the 50 freestyle, medalist from London four years ago,” he said. “You’ve got Nathan Stein who was a medalist four years ago in the 50m freestyle, medalist last year in the world championships.”