The Pan Am Games open in Winnipeg this week. Calgary, of course is well-represented on Canada’s team. An astounding 11 coaches and 61 athletes associated with the local branch of the National Sport Centre are either in the ‘Peg already or making the trip within the next week.
At the centre of the Calgary contingent are eight swimmers, many of whom are University of Calgary students or alumni. Curtis Myden, Collin Sood, Morgan Knabe, Shanek Pietucha, Joanne Malar, Sara Evanetz, Lauren van Oosten and Tara Sloan have all been training in the U of C pool, and many are considered Pan Am medal hopefuls.
U of C swim club Head Coach Mike Blondal has been coaching the team, although he won’t be travelling with them. Jan Bidrman, the NSCC coach will have that honour. Still, Blondal has a pretty good idea of how things are shaping up. He lists Myden, Malar, Pietucha, Knabe and van Oosten as likely medallists.
"There are great chances for medals," Blondal testiÞed.
For Sood, the Pan Am Games will be one of his Þrst international meets. Earlier this year he took part in the short-course world championships in Hong Kong. Sood isn’t expecting to come home with a medal, but is looking at the Pan Am games as a way to jumpstart his international career.
"I’m just looking for experience," he said. "And to enjoy my time with the national team. I’ve already achieved my goals for this year."
Van Oosten has been on the world scene for a little longer than Sood. She participated in the Pan Pacific Games in 1997, the world championships in 1998 and 1999, and the Commonwealth Games in 1999. She’s looking forward to the Pan Am Games as much for the atmosphere as for the competition.
"It will be amazing," said van Oosten. "It’s a games situation, so you get to know people from your team and from other teams. I just want to swim well. The Pan Am Games are all about experience, leading up to the Olympics."
With the Sydney Olympics just over a year away, this is one of the last major competitions for Canadian swimmers. Both Sood and van Oosten hope to make it to Australia.
"It’s a goal for both of us," explained Sood. "When you’re involved in any sport, you dream of making the Olympics, representing your country at that level."