There used to be a time when Coldstream’s Jacob Brayshaw used swimming simply for exercise, and a little bit of competition.
That was slightly more than a year ago. With shoulder length frizzy red hair, and a baseball cap planted firmly on top, Brayshaw, 16, was more into power soccer, a sport that combines wheelchairs, a chair attachment to help strike an oversized soccer ball toward a goal in a gymnasium.
Brayshaw, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, was a fixture on the Okanagan power scooter squad looking to make the provincial team. But when he was in the aquatic centre at the Vernon Recreation Complex, Brayshaw noticed his swimming times were getting faster.
And faster. And faster.
Holder of multiple provincial and Canadian records, Brayshaw – with short-cropped hair – is getting ready to wear Canada red-and-white and the Maple Leaf as he represents the country in swimming at the Parapan Am Games, which start Friday, Aug. 23, in Lima, Peru.
“Swimming wasn’t really on my radar,” said Brayshaw in a May interview with The Morning Star in between games at the B.C. Storm Power Soccer Tournament. “I was close to a Can-Am standard and that was goal. I got it in July (2018) and I thought that would be as far as I would go. Swimming is great exercise, it’s why I got into it. But the competition came out of the blue. I was focused on soccer.
“I’m really working on my swimming now. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to swim this fast. You have a certain shelf life with that. With soccer, I can continue to play and stay at peak performance.”
A month before the interview, Brayshaw attended the Canadian Swimming Trials in Toronto where he cemented his spot on Team Canada. Competing in the S2 Class for swimmers with limited use of their arms and no or almost no use of their hands, legs and trunk, Brayshaw won a gold medal in the 50-metre breaststroke with a time of 2 minutes 11.50 seconds, collected silver with a new personal best and S2 Canadian Para Swimming record in the 50m backstroke in 1:59.72, and added a PB and new S2 Para Swimming Canadian record in the 100m back with a time of 4:13.61, taking off 9.23 seconds.
This past week, at the Canadian Swimming Championships in Winnipeg, Brayshaw won gold in the 50-metre breaststroke with a personal best of 2:01.25, bronze in the 5o-backstroke and finished the 100 back.
“I dropped times in the 100 back and 50-back, and added just over a half-second in the 50-breast,” said Brayshaw, who will swim those events in Lima along with three others: the 50- and 200-freestyles, and the 150-m Individual Medley. “I like to swim better, but then I always want to swim better than I do.
“I was pretty happy with my results in Winnipeg. I wish my breaststroke was faster going into Lima, as I’ve been swimming it really fast in practice. There’s room for more work to to do and improve going to Lima. I’ll swim well in Peru.”
The Canadian finals in Winnipeg were Brayshaw’s tune-up for Lima. He is being coached on the national team by Ryan Jones, of Toronto, who has guided other S2 swimmers to Parapan Am Games and World Championships.
“I work well with him, he’s a good lower class coach and works well with me,” said Brayshaw, who had lots of praise for regular coach Renate Terpstra of Vernon. Both are affiliated with Penticton’s KISU Swim Club.
“Renate is amazing. She does a great job. She gives me sets I don’t want to swim because they’re not so fun, but she’s really great.”
Brayshaw, who swims four times a week for an hour to 70 minutes each day, will have his own personal cheering squad in Lima. His parents, Doug and Michelle, will be in the stands as will his sister, Paige, and his grandmother. To say he’s pumped for Peru would be an understatement.
“I’m super excited, man,” said Brayshaw. “It all kind of came out of the blue. Then I was looking to qualify. Now I’m going to the Games. It’s crazy to think about.”
Brayshaw leaves for a pre-Games training camp in Montreal Thursday, then heads to Peru on the weekend.
He will arrive home on Sept. 3, just in time to begin Grade 12 classes at Seaton Secondary Sept. 4.