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Kelly bronzed at nationals

Josh Aldrich
Wednesday July 27, 2005
Lloydminster Meridian Booster

Jessica Kelly may be just 14 years old, but she is one of the country’s brightest rising stars in the pool.

This year alone she has broken some of the most sought-after records, won several medals at provincials, and earned a truckload of medals from other competitions, but this past weekend she did something no Aquanaut has ever done before – she found the podium at the Canadian Long Course Club Nationals swimming competition.

The Lloydminster product climbed her way to the bronze medal position in the 50-metre backstroke and has yet come down.

“It just goes to show you that you don’t have to train 10 months of the year or wear those fast skin suits or anything,” said Kelly. “I come from Lloydminster and you can do alright.”

The race was tight out of the blocks and she had no clue where she finished until she finally touched the wall and found her name on the scoreboard.

“I looked up and I smiled like a dork, I just smiled the whole way,” said Kelly. “They gave us the medals and I kept smiling for an hour afterwards. I couldn’t stop smiling.”

While she was the only Aquanaut at the competition, she brought down her own cheering section as her aunt and uncle, her grandma, a cousin and her father, Paul, made the trek to Winnipeg. If she ever needed to know where she had finished in a race, all she had to do was look up in the crowd for a sign of support.

“After every race I could see him in the stands with a big thumbs up and a huge smile on his face,” said Kelly. “After my 50-metre backstroke he was thrilled – a half-an-hour later he said, ‘I’m still shaking,’ because he was so nervous.

“It was nice of them all to come. It gives you a boost to know that people are actually watching you.”
Paul has followed his daughter all over the province this year to numerous competitions, but this was something else, the scope of which even took him a little getting used.

“It was a very pressure-filled race – there were a lot of great swimmers and you just hope that she does well,” said her father. “I was very happy for her. You never are quite sure exactly where they are at in such a big pool. You see them at one point at about the 15-metre mark, but as they move away from you, and they’re so close, you never know who finishes where. You look at the board and you almost have to look a second and a third time to make sure it’s right.”

Kelly’s bronze medal goes well beyond the scope of just the Aquanauts.

According to her coach, Tyler Totman, this is the first medal by a summer club swimmer at the long course nationals – ever. The big difference between the summer club and winter club swimmers is the summer club swimmers can only train for three months of the year while winter club swimmers can go year-round.
This was most definitely score one for the little guy.

“Some winter clubs spend their entire days without even sending a swimmer to nationals and we managed to send Jessica there and she won a medal,” said Totman. “We are very impressed with what she has accomplished, it is absolutely phenomenal in terms of what she has achieved.”

Despite being 12 hours away, Totman spent hours following kelly’s progress online, and when he found out she won a bronze he might as well have been in Winnipeg right alongside her...

“I was extremely happy and excited, probably as excited as she was,” said Totman. “As a coach I’m more nervous of my kids doing well then I ever was of my own swims when I was a swimmer.”

The potential for more out of Kelly is mind-boggling for when she jumps to a winter club – which she says she’ll do in two years. When she starts training year-round the sky will literally be the limit.

“If she trained the full year ‘round, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t become one of the top swimmers in Canada,” said Totman. “She still has a lot of options open to her. She’s only 14, and she will be making that jump into a winter program in the next few years.”

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