Beijing-Four years ago Canadian swimming hit rock bottom, but it wasn't just our performance in Athens, it went much deeper. There was a stagnant culture that had crept in and was getting us nowhere. Worse still the swimmers were unhappy and their performances showed. They battled with the media to defend themselves, but it wasn't the swimmers they were after. A regime change was needed and thankfully occurred.
Flash forward to Beijing 2008 and the mixed zone interviews are jovial, positive and pretty fun. "I'm really pleased with the Canadian performances so far as many of us have gone lifetime bests, and we will see more of us fighting to get a lane in the finals," said Brian Johns after his 400IM.
It is hard to measure or quantify this kind of change, but it is real and does mean something important for Canadian swimming. While we might not have 10 swimmers on the podium (or even 1) we are in a better place.
Twenty-seven swimmers made the Olympic Team, which includes twenty-one swimmers competing in their first Olympics. Even with international experience, the Olympic Games are a whole different ballgame. When rookies are swimming best times at this level, good things are happening. At the half-way mark 18 Canadian Records have already fallen.
Julia Wilkinson is a perfect example of the kind of change that has positively effected Canadian swimming. She is a team leader because she leads by example. She has set several Canadian records already this week and made her first Olympic final by going a best time and lowering the national record once again in the 200IM.
After making the final she said, "It's exciting! Bring it on! I'm going to treat this race like any other, go out and just have fun."
Not everything is perfect of course and the next step onto the podium will be much more difficult, but we heading in the right direction. When swimmers take responsibility for perceived failures, as they have been doing, instead of making excuses, it is a sign of maturity and strength. It will be hard if we don't get a medal, but hopefully it will keep us hungry and wanting more.