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Kelly golden in the pool

Matt Ross
Booster Sports Editor
Sunday August 26, 2001

Going backwards in sports isn't a good sign but for Jessica Kelly she swimmingly continues to progress in reverse.

Eleven year-old Jessica shattered the Alberta record in her age group this past weekend at the provincial summer meet in Edmonton. Her time of 36.03 in the 50 metre back crawl was a phenomenal half-second better than the old standard.

Oh, and while she was at it, she also claimed gold in three other events, including staking her name to the record books again. In the 50 metre freestyle, at 31.68 she sliced 18/100ths from the previous best performance.

If success breeds success, Jessica's competitive fire is fueled by her quest for continued individual glory.

"You want to put your name in the record book, plus there are people who you want to beat," the third year swimmer said, beaming with a smile.

Representing the Aquanauts from the Leisure Centre, Jessica qualified for the provincials two weeks ago during the regionals. Her times in all four disciplines, including the 100 metre freestyle and the 25 metre butterfly, were the fastest throughout the province and placed her in the middle lane for all of her one-race finals in Edmonton.

With a muscular build in her shoulders and upper torso, the back crawl is a natural event for Jessica. She agrees the race is made for her but prefers the backwards movement as it allows for an improved oxygen intake.

"When you're pulling in the water, it takes a lot of strength. It's also the best stroke because you can breathe when you swim," she said.

With the summer swim season concluded, Jessica is putting away her swimsuit and sharpening her skates in preparation for ice hockey. However, with future goals of making the Alberta and Canadian swim teams, she acknowledges if she's to get serious about improving in the pool, sometime soon she'll have to commit to year-round training.

She's proven she has the talent to in competing with elite swimmers. At a meet for full-year swimmers in July, also in Edmonton, Jessica emerged with three gold medals and was the first "summer" swimmer to record such a strong showing at a winter provincials.

What's stopping her at this point, though, is her drive. She admits she would get bored and might be turned off the sport altogether if she was training year-round.

Her mom, Lorraine, respects her daughter's wishes. While maybe Jessica's abilities could be maximized with additional training, Lorraine said there comes a point when parents have to refrain from pushing their children.

"When I spoke with James Hood (executive director at Swim Alberta) he said the kids have to ready themselves. Physically, it isn't until the age of 12 before they should be streamlined into one sport."

Still, if there is any motivation that could stoke her desire, on the back of Jessica's medals are the notations of her times and provincial records.

"I'd have to get driven and pushed to do this really hard but setting more records would probably do it."



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