Canadians may not be over-the-top, obnoxiously arrogant athletes, but don’t for a split second believe that means they are not fierce competitors.
Kylie Masse may be new to Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) but her competitive racing spirit has not only made her a winner, it will also propel her to bigger and better opportunities such as the Canadian Swimming Trials, April 1-4 at the new Pan Am pool in Toronto.
She has improved in her first year at university through the help of her teammates and coaches, but that is not the main reason for her success.
“I’ve realized over the course of time that I enjoy the challenge of racing,” said the recipient of the 2015 Ontario University Athletics Swimmer and Rookie of the Year awards. “And that the competitive aspect inside me, truly comes out when I am in the pool.
There is still room to grow both tactically and physically and the Varsity Blues team will continue to help her be at her best, she believes.
But the attitude has not gone unnoticed by those who guide her and will be needed as she competes in the 50m and 100m backstroke, the 100m butterfly and the 200m individual medley at the trials.
“Kylie’s strength is she is a natural born racer,” said her coach, Byron MacDonald. “She loves to race.”
On top of the two team gold medals she won at the OUA swimming championships in February, 2015, she broke records in winning four individual gold medals, including the 200m individual medley held by three-time Olympian Joanne Malar for 20 years.
Success in swimming is similar to all sports where being mentally prepared is as important as physically.
“There is not a lot of race-anxiety in the terms of fear of failure,” said McDonald, who was a Canadian Olympian in 1972. “She gets excited and, sure, there are doubts that surface just like for every athlete.
“But the overarching principle appears to be that she just wants to race.”
The mature racing approach she has she attributes to her parents who told her to have fun and not over think things.
It may still seem odd to her, but she does recognize her parent’s advice and gets into a state of calm before unleashing the storm in the pool.
“As I walk to the blocks, it may sound weird, but I don’t really think of anything, I try to keep my mind off most things so I don’t over think the race,” the Windsor born swimmer said.
Her coaches this year have added a weight training program and helped improve her racing tactics to better understand how hard to start a race versus when she should make her push at the end.
The challenge though, still remains in how best to harness that competitive spirit.
“She is facing better competition regularly and racing faster swimmers day-in and day-out in practice will equate to faster swimming in races and she has shown that,” said McDonald. “There are days in training where the swimmers will just stop and watch and marvel at this young lady’s speed.”