Campbell River’s Mackenzie Padington is on her way to Korea to swim for Team Canada in the World Championships.
Well, after her final exams, anyway.
Padington was named to the squad after a huge weekend in Toronto recently at the Canadian Swim Trials.
“It was very long and very hard weekend,” she says. “It was a really tough weekend mentally, but I swam well – other than messing up my prelim one morning. It was good.”
“Good” is somewhat of an understatement. Padington took the gold in three of the four distances she was competing in – 400, 800 and 1,500-metre freestyle.
And the 1,500-metre isn’t even really her thing.
“It’s actually a new Olympic event and this is only my second year racing it at the trials,” she says. “Before it was an Olympic event there wasn’t really a reason to swim it.”
And, in some ways, she’s only swimming it now because Canada needs her to.
“I wouldn’t say I necessarily like doing it, but I’m good at it,” she says. “There’s a big gap in Canada in distance swimming, so I’m glad I’m able to fill that. We don’t have anyone else that is at the speed we need people to be at to swim those distances in order to meet the time standard.”
She’ll be part of a 25-swimmer contingent heading to Gwangju, Korea for the FINA World Championships in July and she’ll be swimming the same distances she just won in Toronto.
But as for that event, she’s trying to keep her goals realistic.
“I would really just like to make a final in one of my individual events,” she says. “But there’s also a chance I could get on the 800-freestyle relay team. That team is really in medal contention, so I’d really like to get on that team and get a medal with them.”
The World Championships is really the first major global swimming event in the lead-up to next year’s Olympic qualifying, Padington says. While she’s not getting ahead of herself, she’s confident that she’ll have a shot at that team, as well.
“I’d say I’m definitely on the right track,” she says. “I’d have to get a lot slower in all three of my races to not make it.”
But for the next few weeks, she’d got something else to stay focused on. She’s almost done the second year of the Education program at the University of Minnesota, where she is majoring in teaching English as a Second Language.
“I’m in practicum right now, so I get to spend all my time with students,” she says. “It’s easily my favourite part of the semester. Then I’ve got finals at the start of May.”
Not that she won’t still be swimming.
“Every day except Sunday,” she says. “For an hour forty five to two hours, or so.”
While that might sound like a lot, it’s actually a bit less than she used to be in the pool.
“I did more when I was in Victoria (at the Canadian Sport Institute), because in the NCAA there’s a maximum amount of training you’re allowed to do in a week. I was actually swimming about 24 or 25 hours a week when I was there, but all NCAA athletes – in any sport – can only train for 20 hours per week.”
After her final exams this semester, she’s actually headed back to Victoria to focus on swimming for a while. She’ll be taking a year off from school to put all her efforts into Tokyo 2020.
“I need to take this year off to focus on swimming and make the Olympics,” she says. “I have to put everything forward to put my best into it, and I think going home (to Victoria) is the best way to do that.”
After all, a teaching career will always be there for her after she finishes school, but there probably won’t be too many chances to represent her country as one of the best swimmers on the planet, so she’s going to take this one.
She’s also got to make sure she gets back up here to Campbell River soon, too, she says.
“One of my best friends still lives there, and I need to visit my grandma,” she says. “And obviously I need to go see the waterfall again, because I try to do that every time I make it back.”