TORONTO—The pool is about to get a whole lot deeper for Canada’s swimming athletes – the talent pool that is – thanks to an aggressive, multi-pronged strategy launched by Swimming Canada to put more athletes on the international podium at all levels. Coined Vision 2020, Swimming Canada’s goal for its long-term, strategic plan is ambitious, yet focused. With its short-term goals clearly concentrated on winning three Olympic medals and an estimated 20 Paralympic medals in London 2012, the governing body for swimming in Canada plans to take a significant leap and transform itself into a world-leading swimming country, while inspiring all Canadiansto embrace a lifestyle of swimming, sport, fitness and health over the next two Olympic quadrennials. “It is no secret that winning medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games pulls Canadians off their couches and away from video games to participate in sport and recreational activities,” said David de Vlieger, president, Swimming Canada. “While we have been progressing over the last few years, Swimming Canada has a history of excellence in the sport. It is our goal to rekindle the national pride for a sport we all enjoy with our families, and inspire the next generation of swimmers to get in the pool, which will ultimately develop more medal winners for Canada.” Swimming Canada executives gathered with Olympians, national team athletes and young swimmers on the deck of the Varsity Pool at the University of Toronto on Wednesday to officially launch its Vision plan 2020, which targets growing the program from 16th place in 2008 to a top-eight performance at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games, along with finishing in the top-six performance by 2020. Swimming Canada will concentrate on two strategic areas to achieve their goals: implement a team focused on encouraging youth to get involved in swimming while creating a leading-edge training and competitive development model that will foster international podium performances; and increase its financial support by 50 per cent in an effort to provide athletes at all levels with the access to the resources they require to be the best in the world. “We need to provide young children from different regions of the country with the opportunity to take their joy of plunging into the pool with friends at recreational swim lessons to the next step, and chase an Olympic and Paralympic dream,” said Pierre Lafontaine, chief executive officer and national coach, Swimming Canada. “Depth is key to any medal-winning program. This happens by executing an organized and efficient plan with clear goals. Providing youth with new opportunities to pursue excellence through sport will change the lives of aspiring Olympians in every corner of this country. We will continue to work with our sport and corporate partners on this new journey to excellence.”
To better position Swimming Canada to achieve its aggressive goals, Lafontaine will concentrate solely on the role of chief executive officer after the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. Following a disappointing showing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, Lafontaine returned to the Canadian program in 2005 from coaching at the Australian Institute of Sport where he assumed the dual role of chief executive officer and national coach.
“When Pierre arrived we had no medals and a fragile national program. He has done an incredible job in a short time of putting all of the necessary pieces in place to restore the credibility of our sport in Canada by recreating a medal-winning program,” said David de Vlieger, who added Lafontaine remains fiercely committed to coaching the Canadian program to London. “Ryan Cochrane’s bronze medal in Beijing has given our athletes the belief they too can win. We are now swimming to the podium at all major competitions: Olympics, Paralympics, World Championships, World Cups, Junior World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games. As a result, we have become victims of our success, and need to streamline our resources. Pierre is the ideal person to lead our new vision and recruit the support team to be on deck with our best athletes beyond 2012.” Swimming Canada will immediately launch a national and international search to replace Lafontaine as the new leader of the high-performance program. Swimming Canada’s 2020 Vision was created with input from its Board of Directors, staff and general memberships.