P.E.I. swimmer testing the waters at Olympic trials in Toronto

A P.E.I. swimmer is in Toronto for the Canadian Olympic & Para-swimming Trials. Hannah MacLellan will compete in four events at the trials for the upcoming Summer Games in Rio.

'We would definitely feel that in four years time, she will be a contender'

Hannah MacLellan sits on the pool deck of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on the first day of practice for the Olympic and Para-swimming Trials. (Stephanie Drake/Facebook)
A P.E.I. swimmer is in Toronto for the Canadian Olympic and Para-swimming Trials.

Hannah MacLellan, who has cerebral palsy, will compete in four events at the trials for the upcoming Summer Games in Rio.

"For Hannah, this is strategic because this is a learning experience for her," said coach Edie Rogers. "We're not interested in the Olympics for her this time around.

"This is when she's going to go and see what it's like to be at trials. She's going to see what the pressure's like. She's going to watch how the other kids handle it.

"And in four years time, or eight years time, we're hoping that she's going to be one of the kids with the pressure on her. We're kind of doing our detective work and we're going to go and really enjoy it."

More time in the pool

MacLellan is swimming the 200 IM, 50 backstroke,100 breaststroke and 50 butterfly.

"It's great because it'll mean that she's there for a longer amount of time so she'll get the practice of being at that level of meet day in, day out," Rogers said. 
Coach Edie Rogers says Hannah MacLellan will gain valuable experience at these Olympic trials that will help her qualify for the 2020 Games. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"Instead of coming up, doing one event and going home so she'll really get to be part of the whole experience. Plus this is a 50-metre event so it's the long pool and on P.E.I. we only have a 25-metre pool.  We always want all of our kids to swim in 50-metre pools any chance they can."

Rogers says the para-swimming community in the Maritimes is a tight-knit group, so she and MacLellan will be watching to see how some of their regional competitors do.

Two para-swimmers from the Maritimes are on the cusp of making the Canadian team—including MacLellan's friend Danielle Doris from Moncton.  

"It's going to be really exciting," Rogers said. "It'll come down to the race and we're going to be so excited to see how she does."

Hannah MacLellan wears the bright orange bathing cap of the Charlottetown Bluephins as she practises at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. (Stephanie Drake/Facebook)

Rogers, who has been to the Olympic trials once before, in 2012, with her daughter Paige Crowell,  said she's looking forward to seeing the top able-bodied and para-swimmers together at the same event.

"That's going to be a new experience for us," she said. "All of the meets we've gone to, Hannah and I, nationally and internationally, have all been para only."

Contender in four years

MacLellan's long-term goal is to make Team Canada at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo and bring home a Paralympic medal in 2024.

"Four years can make quite a difference, so we would definitely feel that in four years time, she will be a contender," Rogers said. "I think it's just a matter of being on the right track."

Rogers believes MacLellan is a great role model for able-bodied swimmers as well as para-swimmers.

Hannah MacLellan will have two days of practice sessions at the Pan Am pool in Toronto before competition begins. (Stephanie Drake/Facebook)

""The kids will be watching the live webcast," Rogers said. "There's going to be hundreds and hundreds of kids, able and para, there and only a handful of them will make it to the Olympics.

"That's the way the Olympic dream works."

MacLellan is the only P.E.I. swimmer, able-bodied or para, to qualify for this year's trials.  Her fellow para-swimmer, Greg Morrison, was hoping to attend but was not able to meet the qualifying time.  

MacLellan begins competing on Wednesday.


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