Campbell River’s Mackenzie Paddington remains committed to training for the Tokyo Olympics, now scheduled for July and August 2021. File photo

Vancouver Island Olympic hopeful adjusting to shift to 2021

Campbell River’s Mackenzie Padington had to change pools and raise funds to stay in the game

In another timeline, Mackenzie Padington would have been packing her bags at the Olympic Village in Tokyo. Instead the Olympic hopeful swimmer is gearing up to start studies at a new school and workout with a new training group in Vancouver.

The long-distance specialist had been gearing up to compete at Swimming Canada’s Olympic trials when the coronavirus pandemic began. Instead of trying to earn her spot to compete for Canada, she – and the rest of her training group in Victoria – were drylocked when their pool closed on March 17.

The first few weeks were tough with lakes still cold to swim in, even while wearing a wetsuit. At the time, athletes were still trying to train because the Olympics were still scheduled to take place this summer.

But that all changed when the International Olympic Committee announced the Games would be postponed one year. They’re now scheduled to take place July 23 – August 2021. But even that timeline is murky.

This month the Victoria High Performance Centre, where Padington had been training, is set to close. The swimmers were expecting it, they’d been told in the fall that the centre would close after the Games as Swimming Canada focused on streamlining its training centres.

About a month and a half ago, Padington relocated to Vancouver, where she is now training with the Vancouver High Performance Centre and plans to attend the University of British Columbia this fall.

It means she gets to keep training with a group of like-minded athletes who are targeting the Olympics next summer, while using the impressive facilities at UBC and working towards her goal of becoming a teacher.

RELATED: Campbell River Olympic hopeful devastated by Team Canada decision, but in full support

“It’s been good,” she said of the move. “The training group here is awesome.”

She says it’s weird to be back in a pool after so many months swimming in open water.

“I lost my feel of the water. It’s a lot different training in a wetsuit compared to a swimsuit,” she says. “But it’s good. It’s good to be back and look forward to hopefully what will happen next summer.”

But the delay in the Olympics has affected Padington’s funds. The money she’d budgeted for this Olympic cycle is gone and she still has at least year of living in Vancouver and training to cover.

She is a federally carded athlete, so she receives money each month, but that goes towards her rent, insurance, dog bills and keeping the lights on.

“A lot of our normal funding is gone because we didn’t have big meets, so funding had to be rearranged and all of that,” she says.

RELATED: Race of her life qualifies Campbell River swimmer for world championships

With her sister Taylor’s help, they brainstormed some ideas to raise money. At the top of the list was a fundraiser with Woody’s Wallow Farm in Campbell River and swimming across the Strait of Georgia.

They settled on the berry-picking.

“She [Taylor] thought this one would be the best because my other option was swimming across the Strait,” Padington says. “She thought this one would be a little bit more safe for me.”

This Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., $2 from every pound picked will be donated to Padington. The farm, which is located at the corner of Evergreen and Petersen Roads, is asking pickers to bring their own containers.

“I owe all credit to my sister,” says Padington. “My family does so much to try to make it so that I can get in the best position possible.”

She’ll use the funds to help pay for her training costs including swim suits, equipment and even the gas to fill her vehicle so she can get to the pool.

This Friday will be just the start of her 2021 Olympic fundraising efforts. The sisters are still hoping to stage their swim across the strait next spring.


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