Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Kingston, Belleville swimmers to compete at Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Australia this summer

Two local swimmers are achieving great lengths as they swim their way toward success for the Junior National Team at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championship, to be held this August in Canberra, Australia.
Ben Winterborn, 18, of the Kingston Blue Marlins, and Francis Brennan, 16, of the Belleville Beast Swim Club, will represent Canada ‘down under’ alongside 28 other male and female swimmers from across the country. 

The junior event, which is for athletes aged 18 and younger, will be taking place at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra Aug. 21 – 24. 

The Junior Pan Pacific Championships are held every two years and host teams from Australia, the US, Canada and Japan.

Winterborn, Brennan and other top-tier youth swimmers across Canada recently competed at the Canadian Olympic Trials in May, which determined who got selected to join the Junior National Team. 

Winterborn and Brennan learned they had made the team via email on May 24. Winterborn explained that he was hanging out with his girlfriend at the time, and he couldn’t help but shed tears of joy. 

“What is really cool about this story is that there are not that many young people from Eastern Ontario at the higher levels of this sport,” his mother, Cynthia Surette, told Quinteist. “To have two young up-and-coming talents from our area is remarkable, and a testament to the quality of the swim clubs and coaches.”

Winterborn began swimming competitively at the age of nine, but it turns out a love and talent for swimming runs in his blood. His father, Andrew Winterborn, swam competitively in England before moving to Canada. The young athlete explained that his father has guided him every step of the way by using his swimming experience to improve Ben’s techniques and improve his progress. Surette, who is relatively unfamiliar with swimming, has focused more on providing her son with emotional support and keeping him grounded.

Ben Winterborn grew up spending 50 per cent of his time in Kingston with his dad and 50 per cent of his time in Napanee with his mom. Since the fall of 2023, he has been living on his own with a fellow teammate in an apartment in Scarborough while training at the Ontario Swim Academy (OSA). As the Pan Pacific Championships near, Winterborn detailed that he is currently in the pool for 19.5 hours a week swimming. This is on top of three weekly gym sessions for strength training.

As he prepares for this next goal in his swimming career, Winterborn feels immense gratitude for his coaches: Ken Anderson of the Kingston Blue Marlins and Don Burton, head coach with the Ontario Swim Academy.

Francis Brennan, a Grade 11 student at Bayside Secondary School in Belleville, has been training under Coach Brandon Oates, and part-time with Coach Don Burton as well. 

Burton has been a swim coach for 25 years, and has worked with the OSA for seven years as their head coach.

Quinteist spoke with Coach Burton to hear about the two swimmers and how their training preparations are going.

“The OSA is not a traditional swim club, it’s for a very small group of high school-aged athletes (fourteen athletes maximum) and we focus on putting people on youth national teams,” he explained.

Burton shared that they “were able to give Ben some more help and a little bit more focus with our great strength and conditioning program, adding in nutrition, and sports psychology. You can have all the things you need to help an athlete, but you need to have an athlete who’s willing to put the effort in towards the next step and Ben is. He has made a big jump in the past year.”

Coach Burton also works with Francis Brennan in a part-time capacity, as the young swimmer still lives in Belleville. Brennan travels to Toronto a couple of times a week to partake in workouts and training camps with the OSA.

“He’s a very focused young man as well. These are two very sharp guys that are going to represent Canada this summer,” said Burton proudly.

Coach Burton, along with various other faculty members of the OSA, will be travelling with the two young men this summer to Australia as part of Team Canada.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what these two guys can do,” Burton said. “Obviously, racing internationally is a lot different than racing on your home turf. They’ve already qualified so they just get to go in there and race some of the best swimmers in the world.”

Winterborn shared that he’s personally most looking forward to finally sporting his Team Canada jacket and swim cap with his last name printed on it. He says this has always been his dream since he was a young boy, and he can’t wait to represent his family and country proudly.

With all this exciting buzz mounting about Winterborn’s swimming journey, his mother expressed her frustration that Napanee still does not have a swimming pool for the community.

“The case for a pool in Greater Napanee has been discussed ad nauseum for over 10 years. A pool, and a 50-meter pool at that…would be an amazing way to support the investment in this competitive sport,” said Surette.

She continued, “I hear all about it all the time, as a Napanee Rotarian, because our club gave the Rotary Outdoor Pool to the town 40-50 years ago and then we turned it into a Splash Pad at Rotary Park a few years ago when the pool was shut down. While this is a great addition to Napanee, we still always get approached to spearhead a new pool in the community.”

However, Surette remains hopeful that one day local swimmers won’t have to travel to Kingston or Belleville to train or simply swim for fun.

Speaking of future aspirations, Ben Winterborn has been offered a spot at the High-Performance Centre Ontario for the fall of 2024 to continue training. He has also been accepted at The University of Toronto Scarborough campus to study political science. He plans to continue training to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team and compete in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games. 

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