Camrose swimmers to compete at International Lifesaving Sport World Championships in Italy

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Five swimmers from the Camrose Tsunami Junior Lifeguard Club will be heading to Italy this fall for the Lifesaving World Championships.  (Craig Ryan/CBC - image credit)
Five swimmers from the Camrose Tsunami Junior Lifeguard Club will be heading to Italy this fall for the Lifesaving World Championships. (Craig Ryan/CBC - image credit)

The small central Alberta city of Camrose is producing some of the best young competitive lifesavers in the country.

Five young swimmers from Camrose will be heading to Riccione, Italy for the International Lifesaving World Championships this fall.

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The sport involves "a variety of competitions to further develop and demonstrate lifesaving skills, fitness and motivation," according to the Lifesaving Society.

Canada's youth team will consist of 12 athletes from across the country, including three from Camrose. Two other swimmers from Camrose were named as alternates to the team.

This group of five swimmers have been training together for the last four years. The Camrose Tsunami Junior Lifeguard Club, where the group trains, is undergoing a revival after a period of shutdowns.

Their home pool at the Mayer Aquatic Centre was closed for two years for renovations, so the swimmers had to train in Wetaskiwin. During pandemic shutdowns, the athletes kept themselves in shape by swimming in local lakes.

"It's a very proud moment to see them actually go off to world [championships]," said Heather Barr, the team's coach.

She said her team are serious and dedicated competitors.

"We have very specific routines for our teenagers to help motivate them. This group is exceptional because they are self-motivated and eager to please and eager to train."

Barr helps her students refine their skills, but said she also helps them learn how to balance their studies, private lives and swimming.

All five athletes heading to Italy are employed at the pool as lifeguards or slide attendants.

"This community's a lot safer for having this expertise in our community," Barr said.

William Allaway-Brager, 17, said he appreciates the supportive and encouraging dynamic of the competitive lifesaving team.

"I have a good relationship with all of my team. We encourage each other. If any of us are having a tough time, we build each other up," he said.

William's brother Samuel Brager, 15, said he's enjoyed seeing his teammates excel and improve over the years.

"It's really fun to train with them and then to see them improve… And then the relays are a lot of fun."

Sevcan Isik, 18, who has been selected as an alternate, said the group is more than just a team.

"I love the atmosphere and the community that we've created here. We've worked really hard to be inclusive of everybody."

All members of the team have been swimming competitively for many years.

Kayla Vogel, 15, started doing competitive aquatic lifesaving when she was 12. Lifesaving has become her favourite sport. She appreciates the variety of exercises — rescues and swimming strokes — that she can do as part of livesaving activities.

Ethan Verbaas, 16, has been swimming competitively since he was eight. He joined the lifesaving sport when he was 10.

"This facility wasn't built yet when I started," he said, referring to the Mayer Aquatic Centre.

When he learned that he would be going to Italy for an international championship, Verbaas said he was "shocked."

"I didn't know what to say or what to do. I was extremely proud of myself."

During the summer, the swimmers will continue their training at the Mayer Aquatic Centre, but they will also train on local lakes, as the world championships will involve a surf component.

"The surf events will be a new experience for our prairie swimmers," Barr said.

"We're going to help these athletes prepare as best as [we] can."