From West to East
BY RAFFY BOUDJIKANIAN
Eight years after swimmers from the West Island last competed for the ultimate honours in Team Canada's colours, two local stars are getting ready to make a splash at Beijing in August. "I'm very excited," said Tobias Oriwol, 22, a longtime Pointe Claire Swim Club member for who this is a dream come true after years of training and championship meets. "I'm pretty pleased. I think it's still not clicked in. Not completely," said Stephanie Horner, 19, a longtime member of the Beaconsfield Bluefins Swim Club.
Horner will represent Canada at the 400 freestyle event and the 200 freestyle relay, and Oriwol will do the same for the 200 backstroke.
Despite knowing she made sufficient time to qualify for the Olympics at the trials last weekend, Horner said she had a bit of a hard time accepting she had actually made it. Leaving the pool, she was in a bit of a daze as her family congratulated her. Various children then ran up to her. "Can I have your autograph? Can I take a picture with you?" They asked, according to her. "I think I kind of realized it a bit more at that moment," she said.
Though she may have been a little surprised, Ross Franklin, her former coach at Beaconsfield, told The Chronicle he somehow always knew Horner had what it took to make it to the top. "It's not always the case that you can see a person at a young age and know that person's going to make it," he said. However, in Horner's case, her hard work and discipline, along with the way she did her backstrokes, and certain physical features, gave him enough of a hint. "There have been many kids that have been labelled as Olympic hopefuls," Franklin said. The journey to get there is full of bumps, he added, and very few end up fulfilling that wish. "Stephanie is a great worker. She's been able to handle all the pressure and the stress."
Like Horner, Oriwol was also surprised when he realized he had made proper time to qualify in Beijing. "You know your time even as you touch the wall of the pool (at the end of your trial)," he explained, but nevertheless he was in disbelief as he emerged from the water.
Horner, who has been training with Oriwol at the National Training Centre for the Olympics, said she had heard he was a fast swimmer before meeting him but was very impressed by his hard work. "I think he really deserves it," she added.
Swimming events are scheduled from Aug. 10 to 17 in Beijing, so both swimmers are hoping to see the sights and enjoy watching the rest of the competition after they are done.