Van Beilen, White churning waters for Canada

Tera VanBeilen (Photo: Swimming Canada)

Tera Van Beilen (Photo: Swimming Canada)

Two Oakville swimmers and a coach will wear the colours of Canada at two major European events this summer.

Tera Van Beilen and 37 other swimmers will compete at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia from July 6 to 17. Junior swimmer Evan White of Oakville will wear the Maple Leaf at the annual Mare Nostrum Junior Tour, which runs from June 7 to 19. It includes meets in Barcelona and Canet, France, with training opportunities in between. Coach Sean Baker of the Oakville Aquatic Club will join National Junior Coach Ken McKinnon in guiding the Mare Nostrum team on this important development opportunity.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport and Swimming Canada announced the Universiade team Thursday (May 2). Highlighting the red and white roster are no less than eight members of the 2012 Canadian Olympic team, including Stephanie Horner of Beaconsfield, Que., Savannah King of Vernon, B.C., Brittany MacLean of Etobicoke, Ont., Katerine Savard of Cap-Rouge, Que., Van Beilen, Tommy Gossland of Nanaimo, B.C., Alec Page of Cortes Island, B.C., and David Sharpe of Halifax.

MacLean, a University of Georgia student, reached the 400-metre freestyle final in London, finishing in seventh place.

Horner, who stars at the University of Victoria, and King, the reigning two-time CIS female swimmer of the year from UBC, also wore the Maple Leaf at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Van Beilen, also of UBC, and Sharpe, who swims for Dalhousie, are among 14 returning athletes who competed at the last Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China, in 2011. Six of them – including Sharpe – will make their third straight FISU Games appearance, a streak that started in 2009 in Belgrade, Serbia.

No sport has brought more Universiade glory to Canada over the years. Since the inaugural biennial competition was held in 1959, Canadian swimmers have won 98 medals, 21 of them gold – both record tallies for the country.

Canada returned from Shenzhen with three podium finishes, all of them silver medals, including Van Beilen in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events, as well as Hilary Caldwell, a University of Victoria standout from White Rock, B.C., in the 200-m backstroke.

“We have a really strong team, with 14 members of the FISU contingent going on to the FINA world championships in Barcelona immediately afterwards. There’s a mix of experience and first-time senior team members on the team and we’re looking forward to representing Canada,” said John Atkinson, high performance director for Swimming Canada.

“The event has grown over the years and is now an exceptionally high standard event. It’s certainly played its part in the development of many Olympians. It is a great opportunity for these swimmers to experience a world-class competition in a multi-sport village environment, which will set them up well for the quad as we move towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio.”

The Canadian squad heading to Kazan is made up of 19 women and 19 men, including 30 student-athletes from CIS universities, five from U.S. schools and three from the Quebec Cegep system. The Universiade swimming competition runs from July 10-17. The FINA world championships in Barcelona follow from July 19 to Aug. 4.

The Mare Nostrum tour is seen as important in the development of White, Jeffrey Swanston of Newmarket, Ont., and Breanne Siwicki of Winnipeg.

“These are some of our country’s most promising young swimmers and the Mare Nostrum Junior Tour is a valuable measuring stick in their growth,” McKinnon said. “It’s unique because we’ll be swimming at multiple competitions, with travel and training between them. That makes it a challenging circuit.”