Believing they belong: Tigers swim teams hit the national stage

Duncan Forbes - February 20, 2014

The Dalhousie Tigers swim teams are already in Toronto in preparation for the 2014 Speedo CIS Swimming Championships at the University of Toronto, which start today (February 20).

Both teams are fresh off big wins at the 2014 Subway AUS Swimming Championships at Memorial and will look to make noise when things get underway on Thursday. This will mark the very last time that former Olympian and one of the greatest swimmers in Tigers history, David Sharpe, will don the black and gold after an illustrious five year career.

“Going undefeated through the season and winning the AUS championship was a great confirmation of the direction we are going,” says head coach Lance Cansdale. “But I believe that we will cap it off with a great performance this weekend.”

The men’s team enters the championship as the ninth-ranked team in the country while the women’s team finished the season ranked 10th. Interestingly, the exact same rankings as the end of the 2012-2013 season. Last year, the women surprised many by cracking the top five while the men’s team narrowly missed out on the top 10, finishing 11th.

Top medal threats for the women include Molly Wedge and Rachel Shin, who both won gold in four individual events at the AUS championships. Meagan Bernier could also prove to be dangerous for the Tigers, and she will look to make noise in the long distance freestyle events.

The men head into the championship led by their star, David Sharpe, who will look to make his mark in his final CIS competition of his career. He earned the silver medal last year in the 50m backstroke and placed third in the 100m fly at the CIS championships last year, and was the only Tiger to reach the podium.

Cansdale is looking for top 10 finishes for both teams, which he believes are very realistic and very attainable goals. He admits that both teams will have their work cut out for them this week, “The competition looks very strong and deep this year. It will really come down to how well our depth shows and our success in the relay events.”

The Tigers have an impressive track record in the pool over the past 15 years. Since 1999, the Tigers have combined to win 29 of the 30 AUS championships, and have gone undefeated since 2002. That success hasn’t translated into titles at the national level, however, as no AUS men’s swimming team and only two women’s swimming teams (Acadia in 1977-78) have ever captured the CIS banner. The Tigers will have to compete against powerhouse teams from UBC, Calgary and Toronto who have long dominated the CIS swimming scene.

Despite his lack of team success at such a high level, Cansdale wants his swimmers to know they have every right to be there, and have the ability to compete with the best. “Each time we get to swim at the national level, the hope is that each athlete realizes that they belong and can race successfully at this level.”

He says it’s something that he and many other coaches have tried to instil in Nova Scotia swimmers, “We have seen great success, but I believe there’s still more to come and with a greater quality of depth to show. Our swimmers just have to believe it.”

The 2014 CIS Speedo Swimming Championships begin on February 20 and will run through to February 22, with heats beginning at 10:00am and finals beginning at 6:00pm each day. You can catch all finals live online at www.CIS-SIC.tv and live results are available at http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/swim/index.


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