In just a matter of days, 14 athletes from Richmond’s Pacific Wave Synchronized (PWS) Swim Club will be heading to Quebec City for the 2022 Canadian Championships for artistic swimming.
Some of the athletes have never taken part in a competition before, explained Meng Chen, the technical director and national stream coach at PWS.
“So, the very first competition in their lives is at the national stream level... I think this is a huge accomplishment for them,” she added.
The team is eager to perform in front of judges and meet other athletes from all over Canada, and they’re curious to see what they can achieve as a team, Chen said.
Members of the PWS national stream team are between 13 and 22 years old, and they will be performing a total of 12 new routines for the first time at a national level. The routines will include group performances, solos and duets with themes ranging from love and empowerment to powerful Japanese samurais.
Debuting a mixed duet
For the first time, PWS will also be competing in the mixed duet category at the championships. The only male swimmer on the team, Eric Zhang, has paired up with teammate Shirina Ng to perform routines that contrast and harmonize their strengths.
The pair only started training together a few months ago, but they have made tremendous progress.
“[Zhang] only started learning over the season. He started with no artistic swimming skill, [and he] didn’t know how to swim until now,” said Chen.
Zhang is currently the only male artistic swimmer in the province to compete at the national level.
Ng is also relatively new to the sport, and she didn’t know anything about artistic swimming before she started pursuing it a few years ago after seeing kids doing lessons at the pool.
Her father Raymond Ng said, after seeing kids doing artistic swimming at the pool, she asked if she could learn this sport as well.
“I said, ‘Yeah, you can pick up this sport, but you will invest a lot of time and you have to make a lot of effort.’ So, I’m pretty happy for her to make this kind of progress because she is the first mixed duet in B.C.,” said Raymond Ng.
The PWS national stream team’s advancement to the championships has been two years in the making, and they have overcome their fair share of obstacles.
“In the past two years, we’ve had no choice but to slow down our program,” Chen said.
The social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic meant it was difficult for the swimmers to train as a team.
“We were missing that connection. Artistic swimming is a very close contact sport. We have eight or 10 members swimming in different formations... performing different actions. They do different highlight acrobatic actions. Due to COVID-19... it wasn’t safe to do any of those,” said Chen.
The team has also been training at late hours at Watermania, with very limited time in the pool.
“Our children are exhausted, but because they love [artistic swimming], they’re pushing themselves to achieve the best potential they can achieve,” Chen explained.
While the team prepares to compete in Quebec City, it’s also celebrating the accomplishments of its athletes.
Keily Hutt has just been selected to the next phase of the Junior National Team selection process, and Lucy Zhou and Abereena Xu have both been selected to represent B.C. at the 2022 Summer Youth Natation Challenge in Edmonton this summer.
Top routines from SYNC 2022 could be invited to represent Canada at the World Youth Championships, explained Chen.
Chen hopes that the team’s achievements will generate more interest and support for artistic swimming in the Richmond community.
“Let the children be able to do what they really like. I think that’s our goal,” said Chen.