Redemption can create a lasting memory, and for University of Victoria Vikes women’s backstroke specialist Kim Bryan, she’s likely had an unforgettable experience at this past weekend’s 2011 CIS Swimming national championships at the University of Calgary Aquatic Centre.
The Williams Lake, B.C. native was not even sure if she would be swimming a year ago.
A month ago, she did not even know if she would achieve CIS standard times.
On Friday night, she was smiling with a look of joy and relief, and proudly wearing a bronze medal around her neck after UVic’s women won bronze in the women’s 4×200-metre freestyle relay, helping the Vikes to stay in fourth place in the team standings.
Call it Perseverance 101, perhaps Bryan’s most valuable lesson during her student-athlete experience.Joined by teammates Stephanie Horner, Siobhan Newell and Hilary Caldwell, Bryan swam a great anchor leg to help the Vikes to register a time of 8:16.49 and finish third.
“We had some wicked swimmers come in like Steph and Hilary and Ryan (Cochrane) who have won some medals and our core group, they’ve stepped up as well,” Bryan said.
“We’re all proud of each other, everyone cheers their faces off, screaming. It’s been such a great experience here.”
Three years ago, Bryan was not sure if she was going to stick with competitive swimming. She took two years off before this season.
“I thought about never being able to swim again and it upset me to think about that, about not competing again,” Bryan said following Day 2 Friday night. “Because it upset me so much, I decided to come back and I have kept that in mind. This was my last shot to make all my goals. I’m pretty happy.”
Bryan, a fourth-year recreation and health education student at UVic, said she has given her all in this final meet of her university career.
A month ago, Bryan entered the Canada West championships in Vancouver without registering a CIS-qualifying time. She needed to make the time at the meet.
A stronger 200-metre backstroke swimmer, Bryan actually set the CIS qualifying time in the women’s 50-metre backstroke.
“When I did get the first time, at first I wasn’t sure I even got it,” Bryan said.
“I had one guy on our team come up to me and say ‘congratulations’ and I thought he was joking with me. I didn’t even know what the qualifying time was before I started. But as I walked around the pool deck, more of my teammates came up to me and said things like ‘way to go’ and were really happy for me. That’s when I realized I had made time.”
“I was so excited that I was shaking.”
The swimmer of 14 years said she is very thankful for her decision to come back and experience one of the top moments of her life.
“I would not have believed my career would have ended off with this,” Bryan said, smiling and clutching her CIS bronze medal. “It’s wicked. Especially only qualifying for the CIS meet a month ago, it’s the first time in my university career I’ve been here.”
Bryan and her teammates were in fourth spot, trailing the Montreal Caribins in the relay when she dug in the final 200 metres, putting everything on the line for her and her teammates.
“I was not focussing on anything but on the lane, not paying attention to any of the other girls,” she said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Vikes swimming head coach Peter Vizsolyi is especially proud of Bryan’s success on the weekend.
“Usually you swim your relays fastest to slowest and here’s a grad who swims the final leg, someone who has never made CIS championships and who is coming back after two years off,” Vizsolyi said.
“She came back and changed her approach to meets and just qualified for the CIS championships in the January (Canada West) time trials and has achieved life-time best times here on the biggest stage.”
“She’s made it on her own luck, she’s done very well here this weekend,” Vizsolyi said. “We’re very happy for her.”Bryan also swam two personal best in the women’s 100-metre backstroke (27th overall, 1:05.61) and the women’s 50-metre freestyle (24th overall, 27.41) on Friday.
She recorded another personal best in the women’s 50-metre backstroke (36th overall, 31.26) on Thursday.“I’d like to thank UVic for the chance to come here and to Peter and the whole team,” Bryan said. “I’m so happy I decided to come back and to get to experience this. It’s great.”