1999 Canadian Nationals

New Semi-Final Format Draws Mixed Reviews

13 Spots Filled of 20 Available To Pan Pacs


Katharine Dunn

Though Canada's elite were conspicuously absent from the 1999 Summer Nationals in Montreal (the national team was en route from the Pan Ams in Winnipeg to the Pan Pacs in Sydney), there were several stand-out races and 13 additional swimmers qualified for Pan Pacs at the meet.

There were 20 spots available and swimmers had to either make FINA ‘A' standards (a time that equals the average of the 16th place finishers at the past two Olympics) or SNC C1 carding, which is 900 points for women and 910 for men (on the FINA Performance Tables). The women who qualified included: Kristen Bradley, 16, of Newmarket, who made C2 carding in the 200 IM with 2:17.52; Jenna Gresdal, 14, of Etobicoke, who qualified for the junior team in the 100 free; Anna Lydell, 19, of Oakville, in the 100 free; and Andrea Schwartz, 22, of Calgary, who won both the 100 and 200 fly, making the standard in the 200.

The men who qualified included: Douglas Browne, 20, of Waterloo, in the 200 fly; Graham Duthie, 21, of Victoria, in the 100 free; Greg Hamm, 23, of Vancouver, in one of the most exciting races of the meet. Hamm and Chris Renaud, 22, of Calgary (who qualified in both the 100 and 200 back) were both under the FINA standard in the 200 back. It was easy to see why Renaud is the Canadian record holder in the 200 back short course-his starts and turns were phenomenal. But his finish wasn't enough to keep Hamm at bay and Hamm out-touched him by two-tenths of a second. Other men's qualifiers: Matt Huang, 15, of Vancouver, narrowly missed the C1 carding but qualified for the junior team in both the 100 and 200 breast (he won both); Andrew Hurd, 16, of Oakville, swam an outstanding 1500 on the last night, taking nearly 30 seconds off his previous best time (he clocked 15:30.30) and attaining C1 carding; Michael Mintenko, 23, of Vancouver, in the 100 fly; Chuck Sayao, 16, of Mississauga, in the 400 IM; and Adam Sioui, 17, of Trenton, made the junior team in the 100 and 200 fly.

Sioui, 17, broke Mark Versfeld's five-year-old national age-group record in the 100 fly. "My coach said, ‘see how close you can get to breaking 55,'"said Sioui, whose best time coming into the meet was 55.72. He swam 54.50 in the final. "(Breaking Versfeld's record) has been one of my goals all year," he said.

Sioui trains at Trenton's military base pool (one hour west of Kingston) and he is the only national qualifier on his team. And though he often trains in his own lane, he doesn't mind the solitude. "I think that if you can push yourself in the pool, that's not a problem," he said. "I've progressed really well over the years, so it's worked so far."

"Really well" may be an understatement: Sioui's progression has been lightening-quick. At Eastern Cup 1998 (in Montreal), Sioui swam 2:12 in the 200 fly and finished third. This summer, he won silver at Nationals in 2:02.21. "He grew into his body (this year)," said Kevin Anderson, head coach at CFB Trenton. (Sioui is 1.92 m, or 6' 5"). "He's very focused and goal-oriented." And he never misses a workout. Sioui is in Grade 12 this year.

Rating of Top Performances at Summer Nationals
Olympic Events
1) 965 2:00.67 200 back M F Greg Hamm, 76,PDSA
2) 963 53.96 100 fly M H Michael Mintenko, 75,PDSA
3 948 54.50 100 fly M F Adam Sioui, 82,TD
4) 946 4:24.03 400 im M F Chuck Sayao, 82,MSSAC-TO
5) 942 50.80 100 free R R Jake Steele, 79,PDSA
6) 940 15:30.30 1500 free M F Andrew Hurd, 82,MSSAC-TO
7) 940 56.73 100 free W S Shannon Shakespeare, 77,MM
8) 938 3:24.84 4x100 free M F Pacific Dolphin, PDSA
Non-Olympic events
1) 983 25.98 50 back M F Chris Renaud, 76,UCSC
2) 978 26.07 50 back M F Alexandre Pichette, 77,CAN
3) 965 26.29 50 back M H Riley Janes, 80,UNATT
8) 944 26.67 50 back M F Chris Sawbridge, 80,NRST
9) 942 25.03 50 fly M F Gavin Carscallen, 79,CASC
11) 941 29.22 50 breast M H Andrew Chan, 79,ESWIM
14) 938 30.36 50 back W F Jennifer Carroll, 81,CAMO

Overall, times at summer nationals were slow. But the meet's schedule-based on a new FINA format that includes semi-finals in all the 50s and 100s (and the 200s in international meets)-was hard to keep up with. There were, however, surprisingly few complaints about the semis (aside from the occasional cry of "athlete abuse.")

"(Semis give you a chance to) refine your event and get better at racing," said Vlastimil Cerny, coach of the Manta Swim Club. Other coaches commented that semi-finals make the meet more interesting, unpredictable, and "add spice." Many swimmers agreed. "I like them, they get you to swim faster," said butterflier Judy Koonstra. "They make you get up and race two times in one night," said sprinter Shannon Shakespeare. "For 100s, I like them, but it is hard to maintain your focus for one event over two days." Like many swimmers, Koonstra said that semis in the 200s are "too much."

1955 4 3 2 9
1959 0 4 1 5
1963 0 6 9 15
1967 3 12 13 28
1971 6 8 9 23
1975 1 12 11 24
1979 1 13 14 28
1983 2 7 10 19
1987 1 5 13 19
1991 2 8 9 19
1995 6 9 6 21
1997 13 5 13 31

Several coaches were concerned that the level of swimming at the entire meet may go down a notch because semis allow the top swimmers to take it easier in heats. And, as one coach put it, "semi-finals reward the fittest swimmers, not necessarily the fastest." That means the athletes who can sustain a high level of intensity over a night (or two or three) may win over those who fare better in the traditional one-day heat and final. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it forces swimmers and coaches to plan events carefully (because one event may take two nights to complete), and perhaps alter their racing focus. Adam Sioui's strategy was simple: "I gave it my all in every race," he said.

Next year's Olympics are eight days long to accommodate the semi-finals.

Organizers hope media and fans will be drawn to the Darwinian drama of survival of the fittest.

"You hope the reason for doing it is in the athlete's best interest," said Shakespeare. And, she wondered, "will they be able to sustain public interest over eight days? We'll see."

Jessica Deglau
Birthdate, place27 MAY 1980, Vancouver
Weight 56 kg
Height 180 cm
Home / occupation Vancouver / student
Club Pacific Dolphins (PDSA)
Personal Coach Tom Johnson
- 99 Pan Ams 1st 200 free 2:00.65, 2nd 100 fly 1:00.70,
1st 200 fly 2:09.64. 1st 4x100 free, 1st 4x200 free, 2nd 4x100 medley
- 98 Commonwealths 3rd 200 free 2:01.59, 5th 100 fly 1:01.56,
2nd 200 fly 2:11.67
- 98 Worlds 15th 100 fly 1:01.61, 6th 200 fly 2:11.26, 4th 4x200 free
- 97 Pan Pacs 13th 100 fly 1:02.69, 4th 200 fly 2:11.63, 2nd 4x200 free
- 96 Olympics 6th 200 fly 2:11.40
- 95 Pan Pacs 100 fly 1:03.85 prelims, 7th 200 fly 2:15.54
Long Course progression
Age 200 free 100 fly 200 fly
1992 12 1:15.18 2:53.49
1993 13 2:18.54 1:08.69 2:29.07
1994 14 2:10.78 1:05.57 2:19.07
1995 15 2:10.67 1:03.85 2:15.40
1996 16 2:02.59 1:02.52 2:11.40
1997 17 2:01.67 1:02.27 2:11.40
1998 18 2:01.32 1:01.56 2:11.26
1999 19 2:00.21 1:00.70 2:09.64