After spending the last 10 months swimming four days a week at Frank Jameson Community Centre and competing in meets across Vancouver Island, 10-year-old Faith Knelson is going to spend the rest of her summer vacation doing what she loves most — swimming.
Knelson, a member of the Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas, competed at the AAA provincial championships — her final swim meet of the season — July 5-8, bringing home two gold medals, one silver and a bronze.
But before she returns to the Orcas program in the fall, she’ll spend her free time playing in the ocean surrounding Ladysmith and attending swim camp at UBC.
The provincials were hosted by the Richmond Rapids swim club. To participate, Knelson had to earn qualifying times in five events — 200 breaststroke, 100 fly, 50 free, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke — which she did at the Vancouver Island regional meet in June, breaking several longstanding records.
During provincial preliminary swims, Knelson competed against athletes with similar qualifying times, which meant she swam against kids aged 12-14. However, the finals were categorized for ages 11 and under.
Sitting 12th in the 50 free, Knelson finished finals in second place with a time of 30.57. Her time for the 200 IM was 2:46 in the final heat, earning her first place. A 1:24 finish in the 100 breaststroke left her in first place as well. In the 200 breastroke, Knelson finished third with a time of 3:06, and in her fifth event, the 100 Fly, Knelson finished fifth with a time of 1:23.
She said the most scary moment of the championships for her was a slip in the turn on the 100 breaststroke final while trying to get a glimpse of the competition.
“I used to have a really bad habit of looking around seeing where other people were, and now I don’t do that,” she said. “Every time you look around, you take off five-tenths of a second.”
Knelson said she got her start in sports the way that many young athletes do — following in the footsteps of an older sibling.
“I wanted to win medals because my brother always won medals and trophies in hockey and baseball,” she said. “I wanted to try a sport, and hockey didn’t work out because I hate skating. Soccer didn’t work out because I always toe punt and trip over the ball.”
What keeps her in the game, however, is the camaraderie she finds at every meet. One of her positive experiences from this year’s provincials was playing cards with members of other swim teams during downtime.
“There’s practically nobody that puts others down; it’s all encouraging,” she said. “Everyone’s included.”
“It’s not heavy competition like in hockey where you have to hit someone to get the puck,” she added.
Knelson will start swimming five days a week in the fall and says she hopes to compete on a national level.