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Open water program looks for improvement at World Championships

Canada’s open water team of Richard Weinberger, Stephanie Horner, Eric Hedlin, Breanne Siwicki, Philippe Guertin, and Jade Dusablon begin competition on July 15 in Lake Balaton, just outside of Budapest.

The World Championships in July will be the first major international championships for open water swimmers since Swimming Canada brought in Mark Perry as the organization’s first Distance/Open Water Coach.

“It’s our team goal that the swimmers continue to improve from race to race. That’s what I will be looking for” said Perry, who joined Swimming Canada in November of 2016.

Horner and Siwicki worked closely with Perry during the UANA Open Water Championships in the Cayman Islands, a tune-up competition earlier this year.

“I love working with Mark. He’s very positive and always looking at how we can improve. He keeps things exciting even when an upcoming 10-km race may seem daunting. He made it really fun, and the racing in me ignited again” said Horner, a native of Bathurst, N.B., who trains in Victoria.

“Mark is really laid back” Siwicki added. “It’s great to be around Mark and a swimmer like Steph because they’re so knowledgeable about open water.”

Every swimmer’s transition from competing in the pool to open water is different.

“We have a mix of experience and some swimmers that are relatively new to the sport. Those team members that have embraced the national program have spent time working on individual tactics and skills to help them secure the best possible result” said Perry.

Horner swam at two Olympics in the pool before making the switch to open water. She swam individual medley and freestyle events in the pool.

“I knew nothing about open water when I started two years ago. I saw it as a challenge, it was either stick to what I know and keep going with 400 IM, or I could try something new.”

The 28-year-old competed in the 10-km open water race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and finished 23rd.

At the 2012 Olympic Trials, Horner raced alongside World Championships teammate Siwicki, and Swimming Canada’s cameras captured their reactions.

“Mark said that 400-IMers become good open water swimmers, and this photo shows that. We both swam it at 2012 Olympic Trials and now five years later we’re open water teammates at the World Championships,” said Siwicki.

Both Horner and Siwicki enjoyed the experience at the UANA Open Water Championships.

“It was great to go to the Cayman Islands and get to work with Mark a little more. Every experience helps. Every time you race a 10-km you have different things to work on” said Siwicki, of Winnipeg. “We did four days of racing in a row, which is something we don’t normally experience. The more racing I can do the better.”

Horner saw how the event will help her at the World Championships. “I’ll have to repeat the same thing at a higher level. I know I can do it at this level and I just have to repeat the same thing at a higher level.”

The FINA World Championships begin July 15 and will be streamed by CBC Sports.