(FREDERICTON, NB) There are a string of broken records in Charli LeBlanc’s wake, but even that may not be enough to push the Varsity Reds swimmer over another hurdle.
LeBlanc, a triple gold medalist at this year’s Atlantic University Sport swim championships, is attending Swimming Canada’s annual selection trials this week, in Toronto. The team that will represent Canada at the Summer Olympics, in Brazil, will be chosen there.
“My goal is to make the Olympics four years from now,” says the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, native. “It’d be a shot in the dark if I got it this year, everything would have to fall into line and everybody else would have to be off their game.”
While she’s realistic about her chances, LeBlanc is coming off one of the best seasons in UNB swimming history.
Along with her three gold medals at the AUS championships, LeBlanc earned three silvers and a bronze.
At the CIS championships, she swam to three top-10 finishes, including a fifth in the 50-metre backstroke.
LeBlanc credits an improved training regimen for at least some of the improvement.
“I did a lot more in the gym this year,” she says. “I’m not just going to the gym, now I have my own training plan.”
LeBlanc is happy with the progress she’s making.
“I’ve been taking off seconds every year, so at this level, with a 20 year old, you don’t see that a lot. In my 100-back, I took off almost four seconds this whole year, in my 100-back, that doesn’t happen… so the fact that I keep doing it, where am I going to be in four years?”
Overseeing the growth is Varsity Reds head coach Robin Ferdinand.
“She just keeps getting better and better,” says Ferdinand. “I think she’s getting more confident, every year, so I think she’ll keep getting faster.”
This past season, LeBlanc established no fewer than four new UNB records.
She trimmed more than half a second off her own mark in the 50-metre backstroke and more than a second off her old 100-metre backstroke mark.
She now owns the record in the 50-metre butterfly.
LeBlanc is most proud of setting a new school mark in the 100-metre freestyle. The old record was held by Carla Guerts, who was an Olympic finalist in the discipline.
“I think I’m probably my hardest critic,” says LeBlanc. “I go to sleep, I don’t have nightmares, but I think how did I do that or why didn’t I do that, I should’ve been in the water more, I should’ve done that more.”
Ferdinand says LeBlanc has reason to be proud.
“Her accomplishments have been huge.”
At this week’s national trials, LeBlanc has qualified to compete in the 100-metre backstroke and freestyle. She’s currently ranked 45th in the disciplines, so making this year’s Olympic team is a long shot.
“Realistically, it’s not in the cards for me this year, but four years from now is definitely my goal.”
“If she could equal or go a little faster than what she did at CIs, then she should be happy with that,” says Ferdinand. “Maybe top 20 would be a reasonable expectation.”
Still, Charli LeBlanc isn’t about to back down. While she’s realistic, her competitive side isn’t easily ignored.
“I do have to look at right now. I do have to be “my goal is four years from now,” so you have to go to sleep and let it go, but it’s hard. It’s accepting that you still have a long way to go.”
And four years to get there.