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Tokyo Japan

The Olympic Games. Wow! So far one of the coolest, and proudest moments of my life.

Because of the pandemic, these Games looked a bit different than a typical Olympics. Not to re-live too much of what we all know and have been living through the past two years, but let me explain a little bit about how much it impacted me and my sport. First of all, the Games were postponed by an entire year. In sport, so much can happen in a year – you have mapped out the last four years since the 2016 Olympic Games to be perfect on one day, your swim at Olympic Trials, to swim one event under a qualifying time, to make the Olympic Team. Four years of hard work, for a meet that gets almost gets cancelled. Now what? It took a lot of internal and external motivation to stay positive about the entire thing and rewire my focus to 2021. But wow am I proud of myself for doing what I did. In June of 2021, I qualified in the 400m Individual Medley, finishing 2nd in the country, making the Canadian Olympic Team. I became an Olympian!

Before the Games, we had a 2-week prep camp in Vancouver, BC., and we trained out of the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre. It was my first time in Vancouver, and I absolutely loved the city. From the mountains to the coastline, to the cutest coffee shops and thrift stores – that place is definitely right up my alley and fits with my environmental science background. These two weeks were filled with lots of media interviews, photoshoots, and team bonding activities. This is our opportunity to get together as a team and get excited for the upcoming meet. Every Olympics since the 70s, the Canadian Swim Team has a tradition of presenting Olympic Rings (the ones you can wear on your finger) to all the athletes and staff. That gold ring symbolizes years of hard work, commitment, and belief, and it is such a special way to remember this achievement.

We arrive in Tokyo, Japan, after a long 12+ hour travel day on an Air Canada chartered plane, and we have a six hour wait in the airport to collect our bags and complete a covid test, followed by an hour-long journey to the Olympic Village. The next morning, we are in awe of our surroundings - the view of the bay, the rows of buildings with every flag from around the world, and the warm, humid weather. And yes, the beds were in fact cardboard.

Olympic Villages are created to be a town in itself, having everything you could possibly think of and more. There was an arcade, 4 two-floor dining halls, 3 gift shops, a hair and nail salon, a post office, a movie theatre, an ASICS (shoe sponsor of the Japanese Team) store that made custom shoes by fitting your feet with lasers, and so much more. It took the whole two weeks we were there to check everything out. Because of covid, the only thing missing from the Village compared to a typical Olympics was the social aspect. There weren’t any events or activities to mingle with other athletes from other sports or countries - everything was very contained and separated because of the pandemic.

One day I even ran into snowboarder Craig McMorris as he was interviewing for CBC! It was the coolest feeling to see people you’ve idolized your whole life at the same competition as you.

The Tokyo Aquatics Centre was a 20-minute bus ride from the village. The pool was breath-taking, the stands were huge, ready to seat 15,000 spectators. There were two other 50-metre training pools in the same facility, plenty of room to house the fastest swimmers from around the world. Both the main competition pool and training pools have moveable floors allowing for the flexibility to accommodate any type of aquatics event. The pool depth can be adjusted by up to 3 metres. Water temperature is maintained by environmentally friendly geothermal heating, and the ceiling design was inspired by Japanese origami. The honour of representing my country and competing here was super cool.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, no spectators were allowed in any of the venues, so the athletes who were not competing that day sat in the stands and cheered. Locals, however, were lined up in the streets along the bus routes cheering and holding signs as they were just so excited to have such amazing Games in their hometown. True Olympic Spirit in the midst of a pandemic.

My event was on the first day of competition. I was extremely nervous, and rightfully so – my first ever swim at my first ever Olympics. I don’t remember if I slept at all the night before. My prelims swim was slightly off my best time, and I didn’t advance through to the finals. It stung, but after talking it over with the coaches and reviewing my race, I was excited to turn my energy around and give my all and cheer for the rest of Team Canada for the rest of the competition and just enjoy the moment. I am so proud of how Team Canada did at the 2021 Olympic Games, and I am honoured to be an Olympian.

Arigato Tokyo! Next goal: Paris 2024!

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