From the BC Summer Games in her home pool at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre to the Canadian Junior Championships in Winnipeg, Duncan Stingrays swimmer Mary Paridaen van Veen had a busy two weeks to end July.
The 13-year-old won two medals at the BC Summer Games — gold in the 100m butterfly and silver in the 200m butterfly — then jetted off to Winnipeg with her parents and sister, Sophie, also a Stingrays swimmer, for the junior nationals.
The quick turnaround from the intense BC Games, travelling to Winnipeg, and the nerves of competing in a national-level competition for the first time made Paridaen van Veen’s first event at the junior nationals — the 100m fly —a challenge.
“My first race didn’t go the best, but I didn’t get too down about that,” she said.
Paridaen van Veen had previously competed in the same pool at the 2017 Manitoba/Saskatchewan provincial championships, so the venue itself wasn’t intimidating.
“It’s a big, huge place, with lots of risers,” Paridaen van Veen said. “It’s really exciting.”
A practice session with Stingrays coach Brent Forsyth that helped her get used to the pool allowed Paridaen van Veen to have a much better result in her second race, the 200m fly.
“If I went a few seconds faster, I could have made the B finals,” she noted.
Competing against the fastest 13- and 14-year-olds in Canada, Paridaen van Veen didn’t learn until well after the race that she was in fact the third-fastest 13-year-old in the race.
“That makes me feel better,” she said, breaking into a grin.
Although Paridaen van Veen has had a lot of success with the butterfly, she’s hoping to add qualifying times in other events as well.
“It’s my best stroke so far,” she said. “I want to make times in the free and other strokes, too.”
Some swimmers get more than one chance to compete at the BC Summer Games, but because of her age, Paridaen van Veen will be too old to compete in 2020, so she made the most of her one opportunity.
“It would be really fun to do it again,” she said. “It was cool to experience it for the first time.”
That won’t be her only chance to compete at a big multisport event, however, as she is aiming for the Western Canada Summer Games in Saskatchewan next August, and the Canada Summer Games in Ontario in 2021.
Stingrays head coach Leanne Sirup is confident that Paridaen van Veen has what it takes to have further success at the national and international levels.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” the coach said. “She has a ton of potential, and she’s just learning how to tap into it.”