Cheers and applause erupted at Richmond’s Wayland Swim Club after students watched a video clip of Olympic swimmer Maggie MacNeil winning Canada’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games.
A 55.59-second swim earned MacNeil the gold and her time stands as the third-best in Olympic history, sparking an outpouring joy and pride among Richmond’s young swimmers.
“It’s pretty exciting for students to see someone from Canada has won the gold medal, which gives them a connection to real life,” said Dexter Bligh, Wayland Swim Club’s head coach, who replayed the video clip to his students on Monday afternoon.
Bligh said this is the only time, once every four years, which people get excited about swimming.
Some students, added Bligh, might think the Olympics is too far removed for it to be a reality for them, but MacNeil’s victory could help them realize their end goal.
Richmondite Karissa Qiu, 13, and younger brother Ethan said it’s genuinely encouraging to see a young Canadian girl bring home gold.
“I will try to get to the national level,” said Ethan, 12, with a smile on his face.
Karissa, who started swim training at an early age, told the Richmond News that she and her brother have already gotten used to the daily routine of waking up before 5 a.m. twice a week to join the swimming training.
“Training is tiring but we feel it has been very satisfying and rewarding in the end. MacNeil inspired us to work hard to dream big and achieve our goals,” she added.
Gen Liu, founder and director of the club, said it’s not easy for Canadian athletes to earn medals at the Games, which require students to be laser-focused, disciplined and work extremely hard all the time.
Meanwhile, Liu noted that family members and club coaches have spent a massive amount of time and effort to help their children achieve their dreams.
Parents wait for hours in their cars some days, said Liu.
“Some students haven’t become professional swimmers, but they got into some top universities due to their work ethics. I believe those life sessions they learned through swimming can help them shine on other stages,” said Liu.