Swimmers leading Alberta medal haul

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Team Alberta is right on the heels of British Columbia in the medal chase at the Western Canada Summer Games.

Alberta sits in second place with 73 medals to B.C.'s 82 .

A big reason for the host province's strong medal haul has been its success in the pool, where 45 medals were won.

"The swimmers lifted their performance for these Games and they were way above our expectations," said Alberta head coach Dave Johnson.

It's been 17 years since swimming was part of the Western Canada Summer Games, and Johnson said the team served notice to the rest of the country that Alberta will be a future contender for national team spots in the future.

"I'm a former Olympic coach and for many years a big portion of the contingent of swimmers on the national team have been from B.C. and Quebec.

"But seeing how well Alberta did this week opened up a lot of eyes," Johnson said. "The future definitely looks bright for Alberta swimmers."

After finishing up competition Monday night, Johnson took a group of swimmers who participated in the WCSG to a meet in Los Angeles to further their development.

"This is a slightly higher level where they'll compete against swimmers from Mexico, the U.S. and all of Canada," he said yesterday.

"They will take what they have learned from their time in Sherwood Park and use it down here."

Rachel Nicol, 14, had the pressure of being Alberta's flag bearer for the opening ceremonies, but she definitely didn't disappoint in the pool. Nicol won three gold medals and set records in the 100m and 200m breaststroke.

"Rachel has been on fire and she'll be heading to the upcoming Olympic trials," said Johnson.

"She's not quite there yet, but down the road she'll be a contender for sure."

Team Alberta's twin goals heading into this edition of the Games was to finish atop the medal standings and beat their best ever finish.

"We want to finish No.1 overall," said Alberta media liaison Marvin Dobish.

"Because we are hosting it this year and with all the resources we have put into these Games, we would be disappointed if we didn't finish on top."

Dobish highlighted the first phase with Alberta coming away with gold medals in men's softball and women's soccer.

The women's soccer team went a perfect 4-0, outscoring their opponents 19-0 in the process.

The men's softball team beat rival B.C. for the gold.

"Any time Alberta plays B.C. in any sport there are more bragging rights on the line.

"The men's softball team lost to B.C. twice in the round-robin, but rose to the occasion and beat them twice on the same day to win the gold," added Dobish.

"We are very pleased with phase one and we feel heading into phase two, we've set ourselves up in a good position."

The second phase of competition opens today with cycling, diving, volleyball, field hockey, baseball, canoe/kayak, wrestling, rugby and athletics.

"We have some real strong teams in the second phase, especially in the athletics, that's where it will come down to the make or break against B.C.," added Dobish.


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