Barrie swimmers hope to make waves at Canada Summer Games

Barrie Trojan Swim Club members Jordi Vilchez and Laila Oravski selected to compete for Team Ontario

Hard work and dedication have paid off for two Barrie athletes who are set to represent Ontario at the Canada Summer Games next weekend in Niagara Falls. 

Jordi Vilchez, 16, and Laila Oravski, 15, are members of the Barrie Trojan Swim Club and have been selected as two of 12 athletes to compete for the province in swimming at the games, which kicks off Aug. 6 and include more than 5,000 athletes and coaches from across the country. 

Vilchez has been swimming since he was seven years old, after taking lessons through the City of Barrie’s recreation department, He says he realized pretty quickly that he loved the feeling of being in the water.

“The lifeguard there told me I was a natural and that I should go into competitive swimming… so I joined the Trojans and have been swimming for about 10 years now,” Vilchez told BarrieToday. “I think (I love) just the feeling of the water. You don’t come into contact with other people when you’re racing and I find it’s a lot better to be on your own. … It’s more my thing.”

Oravski, who has only been swimming for approximately four years, told BarrieToday she knew she wanted to get involved after watching Canadian Olympian Penny Oleksiak compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro , Brazil, where she became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games. Oleksiak was also the country’s youngest Olympic champion with her gold medal win in the 100-metre freestyle event. 

Oravski admits she wasn’t exactly a natural when she first hit the water, but after putting in the work is now at the top of her game. 

“I was always a good swimmer, but competitive swimming and learning all of the strokes was challenging,” said Oravski, who joined the Trojans about four years ago.

The Grade 9 student at St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School told BarrieToday she has always liked being in the water, but after a while, she knew she wanted to do more than to swim in the backyard pool.

“I was always open to trying different sports… gymnastics, soccer, running but swimming, when I first tried it, was what made me happy.”

This will be the first time competing at this level for both teens, and after several years of hard work and dedication, both Oravski and Vilchez are excited to hit the pool next month and compete against some of the country’s best. 

“I know at practice I work hard and it was something I have been looking forward to this whole year and something I was working towards,” Oravski said. “Most of my swimming career has been during COVID, so it’s been a lot of work outside of the pool. I am really excited, and to be honest, I don’t really get nervous. I am ready.”

Vilchez, who attends St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in the city’s south end, said he’s also excited, but is definitely beginning to feel a few nerves.

“Although swimming is an individual sport, I have to be there for my team. They’re relying on all of us to get points and we have to win as a province. There is some pressure, but I think that’s good,” he said. “I love a good competition. When (it) comes down to a close finish, I love that.”

Although the event selection is still in the process, both athletes are set to compete in the individual medley (IM) event, noted Endi Babi, who is the coach and director of performance for the Barrie Trojan Swim Club.

“They are good at just about everything. All of the strokes, all of the events… they’re both good all around. They have different strengths, but they will swim a lot of different disciplines at the event to help out the team,” Babi told BarrieToday. “This is something they’ve been working towards all year. The competition in Ontario is really stiff, so for them to be selected for Team Ontario bodes well for them in the national rankings.”

The Canada Games can often serve as a good jumping-off point for bigger and better things, and Babi says he has no doubt that will be the case for Oravski and Vilchez.

“I have seen them work all year and I knew they had it in them,” he said, adding both teens are leaders on the Trojans whose teammates look up to them. “We are starting to build a good core of athletes here and these two are leading the way.”

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