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Eye on the prize

Sea-Hawks swimmer has sights set on 2028 Olympic Games

By Mandy Cook

When swimmer Chris Weeks is about to dive off the starting block at a competition, his 20 hours of weekly practice time kicks in.

But the blistering pace he sets — and the numerous records he’s broken — in butterfly and freestyle events are not just physical feats.

His mental game is just as strong.

“I use visualization, going through my routine, what I’m going to do in the race,” the Memorial University Sea-Hawk athlete said while standing poolside in the Physical Education building on the St. John’s campus. “I think about it all before: what could go wrong and all that has to go right.”

Watch Mr. Weeks in action in the video below.

Between that and the eight practices a week he puts in at the pool, the strategy is working.

At the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) regional championships in Halifax, N.S., from Feb. 23-24, the first-year student took gold in four events: 50-metre freestyle (or “free”), 50-metre butterfly (“fly”), 100-metre freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.

He and his Sea-Hawks teammates Thomas Chafe, Liam Tweedie and Daniel Pearce took silver in the 4 x 100 meter relay.

For his overall dominant performance, Mr. Weeks was named the Atlantic University Sport Rookie of the Year, Swimmer of the Year, Rookie of the Meet and Swimmer of the Meet.

Chris Weeks, a white man in his late teens, is in mid-dive off the side of an indoor pool.
Chris Weeks is aiming to be on the podium at the national USport competition on March 7 in Quebec.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

A photo of him wearing and holding all his winnings brings Taylor Swift at the Grammys to mind.

Fresh off the heels of the Atlantic regional victory, he’s scheduled to compete at the national USports meet in Point-Claire, Que., on March 7.

Chris Roberts, the Sea-Hawks swimming coach, says they will take what they learned in Halifax and apply it at the national competition — finetuning things like Mr. Weeks’ tempo in the water, stroke counts and kick counts, how he feels.

Chris Weeks is strong in both the butterfly and freestyle strokes.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

They’re keeping an eye on his competition, a University of Calgary swimmer, who is ahead of him in freestyle but behind him in butterfly. Mr. Weeks is a sprinter, so the focus is now on “releasing some of that power.”

“We need to get faster – that’s the name of the game,” said Mr. Roberts, in between keeping an eye on his athlete and calling out directions while he does laps in the pool. “I think he has a great chance at a podium in Point-Claire. He’s ranked fairly high in all three events. If he gets himself into the final, anything can happen.”

Competing at national-tier competitions like USports is mandatory if elite athletes like Mr. Weeks want to progress — and there’s no bigger athletic challenge than the Olympic Games.

The Canadian Olympic time trials are in May and they’re going for it.

Chris Weeks is from Kilbride and is in his first year at Memorial University.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

When asked if he ever thought, as a young boy of 11 starting out as a Mount Pearl Marlin that he would become a nationally top-ranked swimmer with a real shot at competing with the best athletes in the world, Mr. Weeks responds with “definitely not.”

“It’s been a journey,” he said. “I have this huge goal. Something like three years ago at a competition . . . I got a silver medal. After that I just started thinking big and qualifying for Olympic trials probably shortly after that. I didn’t even know how far I was going to go, to be honest. I’m happy that I’m here now and I’ve got my sights set.”

Mr. Roberts has developed countless swimmers during his numerous years as a Sea-Hawks coach and as a competitive coach locally.

He can see that Mr. Weeks has got what it takes to go far.

“He’s really talented,” he said. “He has great hand-eye co-ordination. He can make little changes quickly. You know, he looks like a superstar. He’s tall and he cares about his training. I think that diligence of every day, doing it and doing your best at it, I think that sets him apart.”

Chris Roberts, at right, is the Sea-Hawks swim coach.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

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