Faith Knelson returned home from the 2013 Canadian Age Group Championships (CAGC) with definitive proof that she’s now one of the top 12-and-under swimmers in Canada.
The 11-year-old visited Montreal’s open-air Parc Jean Drapeau Aquatic Complex July 24-28 to compete in the country’s premiere Long Course competition for swimmers aged 12 through 18.
With thunderstorms looming on the horizon, Knelson swam through a chilly downpour during the finals of the 200-metre Medley July 28 to finish sixth, capping off a championship performance that netted her two golds, three silvers and a third-place overall ranking for 12-and-under girls.
Knelson competed in eight events overall, earning gold in 50-metre Fly and 50-metre Breast while posting silver-medal performances in 100-metre Breast and 50- and 100-metre Free.
Earning multiple medals in Montreal greatly exceeded Knelson’s expectations, she said.
“I went into [Montreal] thinking that I just wanted to make finals,” Knelson said. “And then [when I made finals], my goal was to win a medal. And then I came out with two gold and three silver. I was pretty surprised by that.”
Knelson named 50-metre Fly as her favourite event in Montreal. Ranked 14th overall coming into the meet, Knelson shaved off close to a full second during preliminaries as she advanced to the finals seeded second. She then axed an additional eight-tenths of a second off her time to win gold in 50-metre Fly with a time of 30.04, coincidentally the fastest time ever posted by an 11-year-old girl in Canada according to her coach, Dusan Toth-Szabo.
Knelson’s time of 34.52 in 50-metre Breast ranks as the second fastest time for 11-year-olds in Canadian swimming history, Toth-Szabo added, while her performances in 100-metre Breast and 50- and 100-metre Free rank third overall.
Meanwhile, seven of eight Championships events resulted in new personal bests for Knelson, Toth-Szabo said, with each of those improved times resulting, in turn, in new Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas Swim Club records.
In spite of her incredible potential and medal-winning performances, both Toth-Szabo and Knelson’s mother, Shelley Anderson, take a low-pressure approach to the young athlete’s training regimen.
Knelson trains no more than five times a week while her competitors — including 11-year-old Edmonton Keyano rival Ellie Maradyn — train eight to 10 times a week, logging close to double the number of pool hours Knelson puts in each week.
Knelson plays softball, too, Anderson said, and she competed in a provincial tournament one week prior to her meet in Montreal.
“I believe, and our family believes, in cross-training and having a good balance of sports at this age,” Anderson added. “We’re really lucky for Dusan’s [low-pressure] perspective on swimming at such a young age.”
Coaches and parents aren’t her only source of support, though. Orcas alumni Lauren Smythies and Kara DeClark e-mailed and texted Knelson while she was en-route to Montreal to offer their support, too, Knelson said.
“All around, it was a great experience,” she added, “And I can’t wait for [the 2014 CAGC in] Winnipeg next year.”
Anderson and Knelson thank the Royal Bank of Canada’s Ladysmith branch, Ron Dash of Farm Fresh Design, Dr. Alexis David and John Bradley, manager of the Ladysmith Safeway, for their generous assistance covering the costs of travel to and from Montreal.