Ladysmith swimmer Faith Knelson has done another turn in her career as an athlete, making the Canadian Junior National Team at the age of 14.
But she’s not breaking stroke to celebrate what others might see as a marker, she’s just doing what she loves to do best, and swimming as fast as she can to get as far as she can in an increasingly competitive pool.
“Right now I’m one of the younger kids on the team, so I’m trying to get up there in the rankings so I will be eligible to go to most of the meets,” Knelson said Wednesday, Dec. 16.
“For me there wouldn’t be any markers for where I am in my career – maybe to other coaches there would be a marker, I don’t know – but for me I just try and progress better and better to make myself happy, and to make my coach happy, and to make my club and town proud.”
Most of all, though Knelson is just living her passion. “I don’t do swimming for any other reason than my passion,” she said. “I love being in the water. There’s really no place I’d rather be at six o’clock on a Saturday than swimming in a pool.
“I just love swimming. I couldn’t stop if I wanted, even if I’m 80 years old, it’s probably still what I’ll want to do.”
Knelson has been swimming since she was seven years old. For five of those years she has been with Coach Dusan Toth-Szabo of the Orcas Swim Club in Ladysmith.
For a girl her age to be competing at the level Knelson’s at is remarkable; to be turning heads from a town the size of Ladysmith adds to the accomplishment.
In her age group there is only one other swimmer in all of Canada, who is a ‘tiny bit faster’ than Knelson, Toth-Szabo said. And in the breast stroke there is no-one as fast. She has definitely been noticed by National Junior Coach Ken McKinnon.
“At the national age-group championships she won events in free-style, breast stroke, butterfly and IM (individual medley) as well – so overall, a well rounded swimmer, and they really like that,” Toth-Szabo said.
But both coach and swimmer are careful not to push too hard. Knelson puts in ‘only’ six hours per week at the pool. To many that would seem like a lot, but it’s just enough as far as they are concerned. Sometimes coaches and swimmers push too hard in the drive to achieve a competitive edge.
“Sometimes being a National Team member at the age-group is misleading, because there are coaches that are pushing the young kids at the young age so hard, that’s why they’re so good, but after a certain level – age 14 or 15 – they can’t get any better,” Toth-Szabo explained.
“The situation with Faith is she trains probably half as much as other girls at her age, and she’s still keeping up, and is even better at breast stroke, than others.”
Knelson and Toth-Szabo may come from a small pond, but they are both avoiding the big fish syndrome. It’s about balance and commitment, and they both think there’s room to improve.
“I think that I can progress from this point forward, and that I can get faster, even though I am at a high performance level,” Knelson said.
The next major event for them could be the Canadian Olympic and Junior Pan Pacific Game trials to be held in Toronto in April. The Junior Pan Pacific Games take place in Hawaii in August. “Even though that’s a meet for 18 and unders, we are really hoping that she’s going to make it in,” Toth-Szabo said.
Those kinds of aspirations are something Knelson has grown into during her seven years of development as a competitive swimmer.
“When I was little, I never really thought I could go anywhere with swimming. I just liked being in the pool, being in the water, the feel of water – I never really thought of it as something I could take on when I was a teenager or older,” she said.
“I thought it would just be a recreational thing. As I progressed I figured out I loved to race, and that I really enjoyed winning, so I pushed myself a lot harder.”
And she’s still learning to push just a little harder every time she dives off the block.