A trip of a lifetime.
A six-day, whirlwind, world-level European swimming sojourn for three young Penticton athletes and their coach was something they will never forget.
The Penticton KISU Swim Club members, Justin Fotherby, Ashley McMillan and Acacia Benn, and coach Tina Hoeben were all part of the 20-member B.C. team that competed at the Olympic-qualifying Euro 2020 in Luxembourg, Belgium late last month.
And while they didn’t bring home a ton of medals – McMillan did win a bronze in the U17 200-metre, individual medley – what they gained in terms of experience is invaluable.
“My first trip to Europe ever was also me attending a very high level meet. I got a couple of best time out of the meet, and was close in many more of my events,” said Fotherby, who was the only junior male (under 18) to make the A final of the 400M medley.
“I thought it was a great experience that I had never had prior to this meet and I would say I would take out of this, the fact that even if things don’t go my way sometimes I will have to find a way around it and preserve through the tough swims.”
His favourite memory: “Walking out in the final with the many lights focused in on me.”
For Hoeben, having the young swimmers take part in such high level of competition with the accompanying pomp and circumstance will pay big dividends in the future.
“It was pretty exciting, pretty cool, there was a whole show that goes along with that experience,” said Hoeben, who has coached at the Commonwealth Games and world juniors.
“They dim the lights and there’s spotlights and big announcements, there’s fire coming out of the gateway that they have to walk through so I think the whole team was just deer in the headlights.
“It was a good learning experience though, it was pretty tough racing conditions and we definitely fulfilled our goal of figuring out what the next steps are to prepare for the bigger meets that are coming up.”
She mentioned while they did have some good results there was, “definitely room for improvement.”
Upcoming is the Canadian team Olympic trials which will also determine a national junior team to compete in this summer’s Pan Pacific Championships (countries bordering the Pacific Ocean) in Hawaii.
There are also the provincial championships coming up in March.
Apart from winning her medal, McMillan enjoyed many other aspects of her experience.
“My favourite memory was participating in the 4×100 mixed freestyle relay (Justin was on it as well), that was a really fun team and we all got super excited together and raced hard for each other,” she said.
“Most of our time was spent training and competing, but we spent a couple hours in downtown Luxembourg, it was beautiful and historic, I wish I could’ve spent longer there.
“It is always a privilege to represent KISU, BC and Canada on the international stage.”