Fins looking to build off experience at elite meet

Matthew Gourlie
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Derksen wins bronze medal at Man-Sask championships

Gord Shields is pleased with how his swimmers did at the recent Man-Sask championships.

Joey Derksen from the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Flying Fins swims the butterly at a recent practice at the Kinsmen Sportsplex.

Pleased, but not satisfied.

The new head coach of the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Flying Fins has high expectations for his young swimmers. The club sent seven swimmers to the Manitoba/Saskatchewan "AA" Provincial Championships which featured 460 competitors from 30 clubs from B.C. to Ontario taking part.

"I was very pleased. They swam well. We had a number of swimmers get into the finals. Because of the level of competition… some of them stepped up very well," said Shields. "There's a number of things we have to fix and change — some habits that they have — but I'm looking for some really fast swimming towards the end of the year."

technical and mental

"I want to do some of the physical work in the pool, improving their technique. I want to do a lot of mental skills training with them and improve their skills so that when they're at these high-level competitions they're able to deal with the pressure, step it up and race their best," said Shields.

The Fins sent Lauran Armbruster

Joey Derksen, Catherine Duschene, Polly Hantjidis, Dallas Popowich, Robyn Read and Elyssa Tacchi to Winnipeg for the competition.

"Even as a coach, for me to go with them to a meet like that for the first time with them — a high level meet — it's an experience for me to see how they react and how they perform under those kinds of situations where they're under a lot of pressure to perform. As a coach I was able to observe them and see how they handled it. I learned a lot from them about where they need to go and what they need to do."

Shields has been the technical director for Swim Saskatchewan, but has also been a provincial team coach in addition to being a long-time club head coach.

"My expectations are high. I know where this club can go and there's a huge amount of potential in the club," he said. "There were a lot of personal best times and they did swim well. From a coaching standpoint there is still a lot that I need to fix."

The club had 10 swimmers qualify with a AA time and of the seven that attended only Armbruster and Hantjidis had attended a Man-Sask previously.

"For some of them it's a new experience and with it being a new experience maybe they didn't respond as positively as they could have and were intimidated by the competition. Those are the things we need to work on," said Shields.

Derksen had an excellent meet in the 13-and-under boys category. He posted personal best times in all seven of his swims and won a bronze medal in the 100-metre butterfly. He was fourth in the 200m butterfly and was fifth in the 50m butterfly. He also won the consolation finals in the 50m and 200m backstroke,

"He made finals in pretty much all of his swims and he won a bronze medal. For that level of competition it's very good to get a medal," said Shields. "I'm very pleased with how he swam. He took a lot of time off of his swims. Technically he improved very well. Mentally stepped it up and gave everyone a good race."

Tacchi placed seventh in the 11-12 girls 50m breastroke in the consolation final. Duschene placed seventh in the 13-14 girls 50m consolation final and Hantjidis also placed seventh in the 11-12 girls 50m backstroke consolation final.

The Fins will be focusing on training for the next two months, but they will be attending a pair of competitions soon. They will be in Swift Current on Apr. 5-6 before attending the Saskatoon Laser Septathlon on Apr. 26-27.

Regina was supposed to host two major competitions, but there is an air quality advisory at the Lawson Aquatic Centre and it is unlikely that the pool will be available for competitions this summer.

"We're trying to finalize the meet schedule because of the issues in Regina. They're supposed to host two major competitions at the end of May and the beginning of July and now it looks like they can't do it," said Shields.

While the schedule is up in the air, he said the Fins will attend some major competitions in June and July to conclude their season.

"After the whole year we'll really get a chance to access the swimmers," Shields said.

Organizations: Saskatoon Laser Septathlon, Lawson Aquatic Centre

Geographic location: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. Ontario Winnipeg Swift Current Regina

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