Part of being a successful elite athlete is the ability to overcome defeat. For 19-year-old swimmer Leanne Wiese, this season has been a great challenge, but her hard work is finally starting to pay off.
Wiese made the varsity swim team as a first-year athlete in 2011-12, but when she returned to try out this season she did not make the cut and found herself on the development squad. Led by varsity assistant coach Amira Tawshy, the development team is a group specifically for Dalhousie students who do not make the varsity team, but want to compete at a high level. “It was quite shocking,” said Wiese. "Naturally, as any athlete would be, I was devastated. As easy as it would have been to give up, I knew I owed it to myself to at least try and if I were to fail it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.”
Facing the challenge to get faster
The word "try" might be an understatement for the rigorous training routine Wiese undertook by herself in her effort to get back on the varsity squad. On top of the development team’s training sessions, she would go to varsity practices, pick an open lane across the pool, and mimic what they were practicing. Weise also completed the varsity team’s weight training program on her own and participated in any extra stuff the varsity team did. “As for racing,” she said, “I went in with the mindset that I really had nothing to lose.”
It is a common perception that swimming is an individual sport, but on the contrary it is very team-oriented. For anyone who has been to a swim meet at Dalplex, you will have felt the contagious energy that fills the pool. As one of the most demanding sports in terms of training, swimmers regularly rely on their teammates for support. Wiese says that she greatly enjoys the team atmosphere, and one of the hardest things to accept was that she was no longer able to train with the team.
In her quest to rejoin the varsity team, Wiese said that people often commended her on her dedication, but she says, “I was just doing what I have always done. I’ve always worked hard and I have a lot of practice swimming on my own, so that came in handy.”
Success in the pool
Persistence finally paid off for Wiese late in December when she received the news she had been waiting months to hear and was officially welcomed onto the Tigers varsity roster. Her success has been clear on the scoreboard, as she recorded a CIS championship qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke at the Dalhousie AUS time trial in late January.
“Leanne showed the perseverance and dedication to earn the spot on the squad,” says varsity head coach Lance Cansdale. “She showed that she was in condition to join the team mid-season and fit in as if she were there all season. Sometimes unexpected challenges are set before us and we have important choices to make. In Leanne’s case, she made the correct decisions, worked hard and displayed what is possible if an opportunity is presented.”
Wiese credits her former coaches Dean Boles and Russ Franklin in her hometown of Waterloo, Ont. as well as her family, friends, and Tigers teammates for keeping her motivated. She admits, “Although it wasn’t fun to train on my own, I think I’ve grown as an athlete and a person because of it.”
At the 2013 Subway AUS Swimming Championship this weekend, Wiese will compete in the 100m and 200m breaststroke as well as the 200m freestyle and individual medley events. “It feels good to be in the spot I am in now,” she says. “But it’s not even close to being over. There’s still a lot of work to be done and races to swim, not to mention more seasons to come.”
Wiese believes “being a Tiger is about the commitment of representing Dalhousie to the best of your ability in all areas of your life.” Her commitment received the ultimate test this season and she has proven herself an exemplary Tigers student-athlete.
Learn more about the Dalhousie Tigers swim teams online or watch them compete at the 2013 Subway AUS Swimming Championship from February 8-10 live online.
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