Two members of the University of Waterloo’s swim team — third-year student Lukas Wormald and first-year student Aidan Iapicco — competed at the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
The trials, held from June 19 to 23, determined those who would become Canada’s Tokyo 2020 swimming team. In order to be eligible to try out, competing athletes were required to meet the Canadian Olympic Committee’s entry standards.
Both swimmers made UW proud with their outstanding performance -first by making it to the Olympic trials and then by delivering their personal best times.
“It felt fantastic. To [represent] Waterloo was an honour,” Iapicco said.
Wormald mentioned that despite how cool the opportunity was, he and Iapicco felt the absence of their team, which had always been there for them, cheering them on in pre-COVID times.
“It definitely wasn’t the same as having a team there, but I was proud, at least, to say I went and represented my school and tried to do the best I could. ” Wormald said.
The two Warriors said they faced several challenges before the trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most prominent of which was the closure of facilities throughout Canada following COVID-19 safety protocol. As a result, the boys were in a constant fight to remain motivated and train hard which was- for the most part- on their own.
“It was also hard to stay motivated throughout COVID and the fact that I was training by myself,” Iapicco said. “I had to watch what I was eating and that was one of the hardest parts,” he added jokingly.
Wormald explained how it was difficult to stay in shape, not having access to a gym and not even being able to train with his normal coach. “There are definitely a lot more obstacles behind those best times. So the fact that I was able to do that in those circumstances definitely gives me a lot of confidence going into this season that I will continue to improve a lot more now that things are starting to open up, and I’ll be able to train with my team again.”
Wormald said what kept him motivated was the opportunity to race against the country’s best and a chance to say he raced at the Olympic trials.
Wormald and Iapicco praised UW swimming head coach Jacqueline Beckford-Henriques, saying she was a constant source of support. Iapicco added that he was training with coach Jackie when UW opened its pool to accommodate him. “Waterloo was one of the only schools to keep their pool open for one swimmer. If it wasn’t for Waterloo, I wouldn’t have been able to go for trials.” At the time, Wormald was training in Markham, Ont., his hometown.
According to the pair, the last piece of advice Beckford-Henriques gave them was one of reassurance — for them to believe in themselves. “Breathe, focus; you got this. We’ve been training, and we’re just going to do our best. You’re ready for this. Enjoy the process,” she said.
Iapicco recalled that when he dove into the pool, it felt “surreal” that he was swimming there and was potentially one of the athletes who might form Team Canada. Iapicco was not focusing on beating his competitors; he was focusing on giving it his all.
When it comes to the psychological aspect of the sport, Wormald said he tends to overanalyze things. To avoid this before his races, he tries to clear his mind and remind himself that while he knows the race is going to be tough, that is where his practice comes in. He reminds himself that anything he does in a race is not nearly as hard as the work they do in practice.
Wormald further explained how if one maintains a consistent work ethic, they can, regardless of their performance, walk away with their head held high, knowing they did everything they can. “You have the confidence that even if you did not perform your best, you did everything you could,” he said.
For both Wormald and Iapicco, their journeys up until that point were not easy.
“I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point,” Iappico said. “In high school, I had practices on Saturday morning. Parties would be Friday night, and I said I can’t go to those because I have to get up and I have to work hard for my training the next morning, and I also had practice on Friday night. It just wouldn’t have worked out. Sadly, I lost friends because of that, but then I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Wormald said one of the hardest parts of competing was being held back because of his height. In high school, he was shorter than the other boys. “It taught me to really work hard and earn your confidence. It was one of the hardest things I had to face,” he said.
Iapicco’s long-term goal is to practice and work hard to make the Canadian team. His advice is time management to get a head start on things to balance academics and sports more easily.
Wormald is looking forward to meeting and training with new recruits to the UW swim team as a more senior member of the team now. “I’d love for us as a team to be in the top ten in the country. Where we’re at now, I think that’s a possible goal.” His advice is to prioritize sleep to fully recover and be intentional with one’s time.
Both Wormald and Iapicco will be working toward improving their performance track to see how things pan out, having set their sights on the Paris 2024 Olympic games.