Ottawa, ON – As the synchronized swimming events wrapped up at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Synchro Canada was energized by the results of their athletes. In all four categories, Canada finished in the top 7 or higher, and had the overall highest placement of all nations from the Americas region – Union Americana Natacion (UANA).
“These world championships are pivotal in the four-year Olympic cycle, with athletes retiring after the 2016 Games in Rio, and looking ahead in just three years to the 2020 Games in Tokyo,” said Jackie Buckingham, CEO, Synchro Canada. “We saw this year as both a learning opportunity, and a chance to re-group and refocus our plans and our preparation for not only 2020, but 2024 as well.”
“We are absolutely thrilled that our athletes gave everything they possibly could give to the competition here,” she added. “We came here wanting to challenge the very top teams, and we showed we are closer to that breakthrough to the podium.”
Buckingham noted the impressive debut of a newly matched Duet as one of the highlights. “With just over five weeks together as a duet, Jacqueline Simoneau and Claudia Holzner showed just how much potential they have. They demonstrated here that their technical ability is right at the top level in the world, and with additional refinement and choreography designed to highlight their strengths, we know they will be seen as one of the top duets in the world.”
Simoneau as a solo competitor also continues to impress. “Jacqueline is the youngest of the top six solo finishers here in Budapest. We know that she has the potential to move up the ranks in the years to come and is truly podium-worthy. ”
This was just the second time that the Mixed Duet had been competed at a FINA World Championships. “Our Mixed Duet of Isabelle Blanchet-Rampling and Robert Prévost also came into this competition with limited international experience together yet represented Canada so well with their really strong technical performances. It is such a new discipline, that this was a learning opportunity for them, for their coach, and for us as an organization. We know that moving forward, we need to encourage more participation of boys and men from grassroots to high performance athletes.”
As for Canada’s team, Buckingham paid tribute to the tenacity and capacity of the athletes. “This group had some challenges over the last few months. They had some training setbacks, as several veterans were kept out of training and competing for extended periods of time due to injury. As a result, our less experienced Senior A athletes stepped into new roles in the routines, and enabled Canada to stay in the top seven at worlds.”
“We are very proud of how each one of our athletes responded to the tough demands of this season, and how they performed here at worlds. They are amazing ambassadors not just for this demanding sport of synchronized swimming, but also for Canada,” summed up Buckingham. “And our coaches, Leslie Sproule (National Team and Duet), Johana Vasquez (Solo and Mixed Duet), and Jennifer Koptie (apprentice coach) provided great leadership throughout the week. We also had a tremendous team of support staff who ensured that the athletes could focus on their competition, while all the details behind the scenes were taken care of seamlessly.”
Plans are in place at Synchro Canada for revitalizing the high performance program. Synchro Canada recently engaged two seasoned high performance experts to help guide the National team and development programs in Canada: Sheilagh Croxon (former Synchro Olympic coach and athlete development expert); and Julie Healy who has guided development programs for Hockey Canada, Skate Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee. They have been working together to develop a more sophisticated and LTAD-centred national development system.
Synchro Canada is investing heavily in a Next Gen program, focussing on athletes 5-8 years out from the Worlds team, with a goal to getting the Canadian team back on the Olympic podium by 2024. It has adopted an organization-wide 8-year strategic plan to guide the organization’s decisions in achieving this objective.
Buckingham summed up the experience at the world championships, and the impact for Synchro Canada by saying, “The future is bright for this committed and dedicated organization whose Board of Directors along with its Members, have set in place a critical path that will build the sport within Canada and increase its profile around the world. We truly are poised for greatness in the years to come.”