Competition and Covid: Varsity Swimmers On How the Pandemic Has Affected Acadia Swimming

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected students across all facets of university life in the past two years. Student-athletes in particular have experienced how lockdowns affect their sport and their team’s ability to train and compete. Particularly for students involved in sports extending into the winter season, the newest coronavirus restrictions have meant postponed competitions. 

While Acadia’s swim team has been allowed to resume training with capacity restrictions, their return to competition is more uncertain. The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Swimming Championships, which were held virtually in 2021, are currently scheduled February 11th-13th at Memorial University. With the AUS announcement on January 14th regarding a delay to the start of 2022 competition until at least mid-February, this date remains unlikely. Acadia Swimming, however, remains committed to training in the hopes of competing soon, and is looking forward to whatever racing opportunities will be permitted. 

Rookie Josh Elsworth, trying to look for the positives in a season heavily impacted by restrictions on training and competing, says: 

 Covid definitely hasn’t been easy for athletes. The cancelled practices, competitions, and not getting to see your friends really takes a toll on you. But the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll get to return gives you a whole new appreciation and love for the sport. When times are tough, you have to look at the good. Everyone loves a comeback story, and Covid is just setting up the plot for us to come back stronger than ever.

Second-year Holly McCool has never experienced a “normal” season that has been unaffected by the pandemic, and was looking forward to the excitement of the AUS Championships: “Covid has definitely put a strain on everyone physically and mentally. I was looking forward to going to Newfoundland for AUS and having a chance to experience a full AUS meet instead of a virtual one.” 

McCool says that part of the fun and experience of competition in swimming is a chance to come together with other teams and watch everyone race together. “I’ve only been able to compete in three in-person meets with the university team, and they were more fun than the virtual meets by far. In the few meets that we have competed in, it’s fun to see people from other teams gather together to compete in a sport that we all love.”

Third-year Gina Vaillancourt had a great start to the season, but worries about losing progress in the wake of postponed competition:

With a new head coach I felt super positive about being able to improve this year individually and as a team. Kemp Fry was a really solid meet for me as I was right on or just below all of my personal bests. My freestyle races felt especially great. Now that racing is postponed, my motivation is definitely pretty low. I feel very weak coming back to the pool after so much time off and I’m worried that the progress and strength I gained in the first semester is gone.

Despite the disappointments of the season, Vaillancourt is trying to look on the bright side. “If AUS does happen, I’m trying to remain optimistic for myself and the entire team. We still have time to train and get stronger, and as a team we’ve always been super good at supporting each other through hard times.”

Elisabeth Morrison, a third-year student and swimmer, acknowledges the factor of the unknown in times of restrictions and postponements:

Covid has affected our team in terms of competing because it has added a layer of uncertainty. Our training is based around competition, and everything is scheduled pretty tightly. Due to covid, our meets have been postponed over and over again which makes it extremely hard to train with no set competition dates. Not having a guaranteed AUS championship makes it extremely hard to train upwards of 15 hours a week. However, I am hopeful that we will have some sort of championship meet at the end of the year.

Fourth-year Cali Bruce is also trying to stay positive, but is hopeful that there will be some sort of racing opportunity later in the year: “The impact that Covid has had on competitions in the past few years has been extremely frustrating. Especially with this year being my final year, it makes it really hard to want to keep training when the season keeps being pushed back. I’m hopeful that everything gets sorted out soon, and the rest of our season isn’t cancelled.”

Aubrey Landry, also in his fourth year on the Acadia swim team, commented on the difficulty in staying motivated after a half season of intense training: “I find the biggest way Covid has impacted me is my motivation,” he says. “It’s tough when you train so hard and dedicate so much time to your sport. To have the championship taken away feels very defeating. Now we’re training for the possibility of having an AUS, but the motivation is just not the same.”

Acadia Swimming will continue to train hard in safe conditions in the hopes of racing soon.