Camrose swimmers will compete in the International Lifesaving Sport World Championships in Italy

The small town of Camrose in central Alberta produces some of the best young competitive lifeguards in the country.

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

The sport involves “a variety of competitions to further develop and demonstrate lifesaving skills, physical 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 have been named as the team’s alternates.

This group of five swimmers has been training together for four years. The Camrose Tsunami Junior Lifeguard Club, where the group trains, is experiencing a revival after a period of closures.

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

“It’s a very proud moment to see them go out into the world [championships]”said Heather Barr, the team’s coach.

She said her team is made up of serious and dedicated competitors.

“We have very specific routines for our teenagers to keep them motivated. This group is exceptional because they are driven, eager to please and eager to train.”

Barr helps her students hone their skills, but says she also helps them learn to balance school, life and swimming.

The five athletes traveling to Italy are employed at the pool as lifeguards or slide attendants.

“This community is much safer to have that expertise in our community,” Barr said.

William Allaway-Brager, 17, said he appreciated the dynamic support and encouragement from the competitive lifesaving team.

“I have a good relationship with my whole team. We encourage each other. If one of us is going through a difficult time, we strengthen each other,” he said.

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

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

Sevcan Isik, 18, who was selected as a substitute, said the group is more than just a team.

“I love the atmosphere and the community we’ve created here. We’ve worked really hard to be inclusive of everyone.”

All team members have been in competitive swimming for many years.

Kayla Vogel, 15, started competitive lifesaving when she was 12 years old. Lifesaving has become his favorite sport. She enjoys the variety of exercises – rescues and swims – that she can do in lifesaving activities.

Ethan Verbaas, 16, has been swimming competitively since he was eight years old. He joined the life-saving sport when he was 10 years old.

“This facility was not yet built when I started,” he said, referring to the Mayer Aquatic Center.

When he learned he would be traveling 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, swimmers will continue their training at the Mayer Aquatic Center, but they will also train on local lakes, as the World Championships will include a surf component.

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

“We are going to help these athletes to prepare as well as possible. [we] box.”

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