Kate Vanderbeek is one final step away from the Olympics


Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

When third-year swimmer Kate Vanderbeek first went to the Olympic swimming trials, she was only 15-years old.

And now, eight years later and after a five-year hiatus from swimming, Vanderbeek is returning to the Olympic stage — trying to take the final step towards qualifying for the 2016 summer Olympics, set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I’m excited to go to Olympic trials, it only happens once every four years and it’s a pretty big deal,” she said.

Vanderbeek qualified for the Olympic trials a month ago during the Ontario University Athletics championship meet, in her specialty stroke, the 100-metre backstroke.

She finished at a time of 1:02.27 — the standard time to qualify for the Olympic trials is 1:02.38.  Vanderbeek said that swimmers can qualify at any point over the season, they just need to finish under the standard set time.

She is also only one of three swimmers in Waterloo to have qualified.

“There’s three of us in Waterloo that have made trials, out of an entire city, that’s a pretty big thing,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people that aspire to do it, but not a lot of people get there.”

Vanderbeek said that with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national meet and Olympic trials only six weeks apart, swimmers normally have to choose between what events they want to focus on. Some swimmers may focus on preparing for the Olympic trials and treat nationals as just another meet, but for Vanderbeek, it’s the reverse.

“My bigger focus was CI[S]’s. All the preparation going into that and hoping to be at my best for CI[S]’s, and then five or six weeks later when I go to trials it’s just another chance to get up and swim.”

“I still have my separate goals for Olympic trials, but CI[S]’s was I guess the main event for me.”

Vanderbeek’s preparation going into trials consists of maintaining a heavy workload for another couple weeks. Then, when the event is but a week away, lighten up on the workload a little bit.

Vanderbeek said that she’d lighten up on the workload because her body needs time to recover and rejuvenate to get more energy approaching a big competition.

“We’ll go until about a week before — we won’t stop swimming. Just practices will be a little bit lighter,” she said.

Vanderbeek now faces off against 50 to 100 swimmers, some with Olympic experience, others finishing their university degrees, in Toronto from April 5–10. In order to book her slot to Rio, not only must she come first-place, but she must finish with a stellar time of 1:00.25.

But if nobody makes the standard time for the International Swimming Federation, then nobody is sent to compete for the event.

But for Vanderbeek, she’s just focused on making new personal bests and to work her way up the national ranking, with a goal to hopefully make it onto the Olympic stage in the next few years.

“I’m just proud of myself for getting to that stage then, once I’m at that stage, continuing to build and seeing where I am the next year and the next year and working my way up,” she said.

“If I come top 20 now, the goal next year, top 15, top 10, top five, working my way up.”

“Making Olympic trials was my goal this year, so I’m really proud that I accomplished that.”

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