As Avery Movold took her starting position at the edge of the pool in the 50m butterfly race on the first day of the 2015 Mel Zajac Jr. International swim meet at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in late May, she looked beside her.
Standing there was Noemie Thomas, an already established 19-year-old swimming wunderkind hailing from Richmond, who swims for the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), is a Canadian national team member and owns a Canadian record in the exact race she’s about to swim versus Prince Rupert’s Movold and six other women in the “A” final.
But there wasn’t time to gape for Movold, a swimmer four years Thomas’ junior at age 15 and a huge fan of hers. She had a race to swim.
“I knew of her because she’s so amazing … just to be next to her and race against her was a great feeling,” said Movold recently.
Thomas cleaned up and won gold in the race with a time of 27.27 seconds, but it was the Rupertite who surprised even herself with the swim of her lifetime.
Movold beat two 20-year-olds, finished in sixth and not only set a personal best in the 50 fly, but qualified for Olympic trials with a time of 28.59, a full half-second better than her preliminary entry in the same category.
Initially, Movold was even a little disappointed. If the top finishers in the race had swam similar races to the ones they had in prelims, Movold would have had a chance at medalling. But the swimmer knew many of the elite athletes don’t try their hardest in the lead-up races, knowing they’ll make the finals anyway.
But it was her coach for the meet, Prince George’s Jerzy Partyka, running over to her that signalled she had just accomplished something great.
“Jerzy comes back to me and he’s like ‘Oh my goodness, you made trials!’ … I [thought] no, that’s not right and then I got a whole bunch of texts from my parents and [Prince Rupert Rapids head coach] Chris [Street] and it said ‘TRIALS’ in capital letters and a thousand exclamation points … and it was amazing to be able to do that. I’m so excited to go to trials next year,” said Movold.
Not stopping there, Movold finished sixth once again in the “A” final of the 50 freestyle race, again being the youngest competitor in the category, and reached a time of 27.03, shortly behind first-place’s Vanessa Garcia’s, 36, time of 25.81.
That swim earned her a second berth in the 2016 Olympic trials – an achievement she was so far from thinking was possible heading into the meet that she is still wrapping her head around it today.
“My goal was to make a final for any race. I was hoping to make a final in everything, but the way the psych sheets were, I wasn’t expecting to,” she said.
“For some of those races, I was like ‘I know I can go faster. I know I can do this’ and I did it. To make those times is the cherry on top for me.”
Attending the meet with a Prince George contingent of swimmers, a few of which Movold knew previously, the Rupertite stayed in UBC’s student residences, which offered her a glimpse of life after graduating Charles Hays Secondary.
“It was really cool to stay there and see what that would be like when I go to university. It was definitely cool,” she said.
“[Going into the meet], I knew I had a few races. I had the 200 back, 100 back, the 100 free, 50 free, the 50 back. I had no long races, it was just a sprint meet for me because I’ve been training for sprints.”
Movold hasn’t specialized in any specific stroke yet – she’s more at the mercy of Street’s training regiment at the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre in whatever strokes he sees fit to train Movold in, whether it be the sprints she’s good at or the longer distances.
She enjoys both the sprints and marathons.
“Whatever my coach trains me in, I try to perform to the best of my ability,” said the athlete.
It’s taken pure hard work for Movold to accomplish her times and she’s gotten adept at identifying areas she needs improvement in and targeting those areas with a sniper’s precision.
“Going into warmups for [the 50 fly], I [said to myself], ‘OK this is the time for me to work on [my entry, diving and touching – all of Partyka’s recommendations] … I think I did four dives that day just working on stuff,” she said.
“I’ve actually gotten the chance to work with Brent Hayden, one of the Canadian Olympians, and he’s really good at diving and he looked at my dive and gave me some pointers. It was awesome that Brent Hayden himself was giving me advice.”
Along with her two trials times, Movold made the “B” final in the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke races and the “C” final in 100 freestyle.
“Going into that meet I was supposed to final in three races, so for me that was amazing and an amazing experience to get to compete against all those girls from different countries,” she said.
Movold believes fellow Rapids member Brandan Hagen is also close to achieving an Olympics trial time in 100 breaststroke.
The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Trials will take place from April 5 – 10, 2016 at the newly-built Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.