Chris Manning is no stranger to the national stage.
The Brantford, Ont., native has been a fixture at the Canadian trials since he was a teenager swimming for the W Ross Macdonald team.
When he steps on to the starting platform at the Pan Am qualifiers this year, he will draw on the experience he gained as a 16-year-old.
“When you walk into the pool at that age, it’s just sort of about getting a feel for it, getting a feel for the atmosphere,” Manning said, in a phone interview last Wednesday. “That’s the point in time when you’ve really got to soak in all of the experiences.
“The swimming piece is definitely important, but knowing your environment, that is pretty key.”
Manning has come a long way as a swimmer since the Beijing trials in 2008, winning the men’s 50 metre freestyle event at the 2013 world championship trials in Victoria, and representing Canada at the World Aquatic Championships in Barcelona.
Prior to that, he attended Auburn University in Alabama for two years where he earned All-SEC First-Team and Freshmen-Team honours in addition to being named a two-time All-American.
That’s why it was such a shock to Byron MacDonald when he was informed that Manning would be transferring to the University of Toronto after his sophomore year.
“I was pretty surprised because usually kids who are transferring are kids that are not doing well,” said MacDonald, a former Olympic swimmer who now coaches the Varsity Blues’ swim team. “He was actually doing fine. He was scoring points and he was doing well.”
Manning was forced to sit out his first season of Canadian Interuniversity Sport swimming because of a transfer rule that was overturned the year after he made the switch. He took that year to refocus and rededicate himself.
“I had to sit the 2012-13 season,” said the 23-year-old. “At that point it was just finding a bit of passion for the sport again and figuring out how I wanted to finish off my swimming career.”
One man who has helped him find that passion is MacDonald.
“The biggest thing with Byron is just his genuine concern about you, not only as a swimmer, but as a person too,” said Manning, the two-time CIS champion. “You are only in the sport for a few short years and then it’s what happens after … swimming is just a setup for the rest of (your life).”
The fifth-year senior wrapped up his collegiate career this season after the CIS finals and plans to write the Law School Admission Test in September.
Manning has one more swim to focus on before that though, and his coach thinks he is ready.
“I absolutely see Chris having a bounce back year,” said MacDonald, referring to Manning’s fourth-place finish at last year’s nationals. “The last two weeks have been by far his best two weeks of the entire season.
“His training has been taken to another notch and that’s what he is going to need to do (to win) next week at the trials.”
The Team Canada trials are taking place April 1-4 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough.
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