The Olympic dream is on hold for an Okotoks swimming star.
Olympic hopeful Finlay Knox will not be competing at the 2020 Summer Games in Japan after the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced on March 22 it will not send its athletes to the Games while the globe is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s super unfortunate, but it’s definitely in the best interest of the athletes and keeping everyone safe,” said Knox, the Okotoks Mavericks Swim Club alumnus. “It’s definitely a shock from all of us because this year was a huge year, Swim Canada was having one of its best years yet and was going to be an important year and a really fast year for swimmers and I found out on Instagram Team Canada wasn’t sending a team to the Olympics which kind of sucked. You just have to roll with the punches and adapt the best you can.”
The 19-year-old Knox was set to compete at the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials, which prior to being cancelled were to begin on March 23 in Toronto.
“This year was fully focused on swimming,” Knox said. “I don’t really like to talk too much about making teams or all that stuff because anything can happen.
“But I would definitely say this year was the strongest I’ve felt in the pool and the fastest I’ve ever swam and I was really looking forward to racing at trials and was mentally prepared to swim really fast.
“Anything can happen and this time it was it being cancelled and that’s kind of a huge bummer, but we’re just trying to make the best out of it.”
Knox said he was in Florida on March 12 when he and his teammates were summoned back to Canada to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and flew to Toronto the following day.
The swimmers were then told to return home with team training on hold for the foreseeable future with Knox returning to Okotoks.
“Every day was so different,” he said. “The day we found out we had to go home from Florida, the trials were still going on and we still had scheduled training.
“The next day trials were cancelled, we had a week break because all the pools were shutdown, but we were meant to get back to it the following week.”
The Okotokian burst onto the international scene with a silver medal in the 200m IM at the 2019 FINA World Junior Championships in August, earning the second fastest finish ever by a Canadian in that race. Knox also picked up bronze at the worlds as part of Canada’s 4x100m medley relay.
Knox, who trains with Canada’s top swimmers at the High Performance Centre in Toronto, has enjoyed a strong 2019-20 season with personal bests in 400m IM, 200m backstroke, 50m butterfly along with 100 and 50m freestyle.
Swimming Canada was vocal in its concerns with the potential of the Olympics going ahead due largely to the inability for swimmers to train in pools.
“The main thing is the majority of the facilities were shutdown and for swimming, especially, the feel of the water is super important,” Knox said. “When every day you’re not in the water you lose that feeling very quickly.
“Everyone is sort of beached out right now and not really sure what to do,”
There’s some dry-land training swimmers can do, but it’s pretty limited and working out individually is also a new challenge.
“There’s different swim bench machines out there that help, but then again not everyone has access to them, such as myself,” he said. “We’re all in this situation so there’s not a best thing to do, worst thing to do.
“It’s just trying to stay active and keeping mobile and not staying in bed and eating, just making sure you’re still making healthy choices.”
The Foothills Composite alumnus, a Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist in 2018, has also been competing in the fledgling International Swimming League for the London Roar.
Canada was the first National Olympic Committee to make the announcement it would not be participating if the Games go ahead in 2020. Australia has since made the same decision.
Earlier in the day on March 22, the IOC announced it was giving itself four weeks to consider a postponement of the Games.
The IOC on March 23 confirmed the Games will be postponed.
The COC and POC issued a joint statement outlining the decision not to send its athletes to the Games in 2020.
“The COC and CPC urgently call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the COC release stated.
“This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”