HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
On the surface, the scenario seemed so inviting during a cruel time. Two weeks in a European capital. Residing in an island hotel in the middle of the city. Doing something you love.
But these are COVID-19 pandemic times. How can this day-dreaming idea be transformed into reality? Well, the International Swimming League pulled it off in Budapest and Bailey Andison of Smiths Falls was part of it.
During a six-week solidarity camp and competition, featuring 10 meets over 24 days in late October and early November, the ISL said it had no positive tests for swimmers and “managed to deliver a fantastic product.”
“The experience was completely amazing,” Andison wrote in an email interview. “
Not only did the ISL produce a competition for the athletes to race for the first time this year, they also did it safely.
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“This was a big concern for a lot of the athletes,” highlighted the Perth Stingrays Swim Club product. “I think a lot of people on the outside were skeptical about how it would go, but the events ran so smooth and we felt very safe the entire time.”
Competing for DC Trident in the ISL’s second season, Andison emerged from the Budapest Bubble having raced other elite swimmers, earned five top-four results, which brought her prize money, and made lifetime friends.
“My team was incredible. We all genuinely cared for each other and I came away from Budapest with new friendships and bonds that will undoubtedly last a lifetime,” added the former Indiana University senior.
When Andison met her teammates in Budapest, she was tested for COVID-19, quarantined for 12 hours and tested again. She was restricted to two locations: her hotel on Margaret Island and the DUNA Arena pool.
Swimmers were allowed 90 minutes outdoor time each day to explore the Danube River island. “(It) doesn’t seem like a lot, but when we are still training and competing full time, it was the perfect amount,” she added.
“Masks were worn at all times other than when we were in the pool and social distancing was exercised,” wrote Andison, who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and now focuses on the 2021 Canadian Olympic trials in April.
Although her DC Trident team finished ninth and missed the playoffs by one spot, Andison was quite happy with her swim results. In her four two-day meets, she recorded two second-place results, one third and two fourths.
The top three swimmers in each race didn’t receive medals, which eliminated podium ceremonies and kept the meets flowing quickly. Prize money ($U.S.) was awarded to the top 4: $2,400, $1,600, $800 and $400.
Andison’s times were consistent in her 12 individual-medley races: 100 metres – 1:00.20 to 1:00.70; 200 metres – 2:07.52 to 2:08.35; and 400 metres – 4:31.60 to 4:33.93.
“Given the circumstances of training this year, I was unsure how it would go,” Andison continued. “I started out quite strong and would like to have gotten faster as the meets progressed.
“However, I was relatively consistent throughout my time there and I am content with the results. The first meet (Oct. 18-19) was my best showing. I placed second in both of my best events (200- and 400-metre IM).”
Andison’s next major step is the 2021 Olympic trials and the ISL gave her “a good indicator of where I am at and where I need to be.”
“I am in a good place and capable of getting faster going into the spring season.”
Her focus at the Olympic trials will be the 200- and 400-metre IMs. “I have a good shot at making the team. It all comes down to how athletes swim on one particular day and that results in the selection for the meet.”
Andison won the women’s 200-metre IM bronze medal at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. She also was the 2019 Big Ten champion in the 400-yard IM and third over 200 yards.
The 23-year-old also competed in the ISL in 2019, which was its inaugural year. She raced for the Los Angeles Current. The Current didn’t need an IM swimmer this year, but DC Trident recruited her to fill that important team spot.
“It’s like any professional sports league, where teams need to fill certain positions so they find athletes with those strengths and do their best to get them on their team,” Andison said.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.