It would be unfair to compare Zoe De Jonge with Canadian swimming star Penny Oleksiak, but there is one striking similarity — her height.
Oleksiak, who grabbed the attention of a country with her outstanding performance at the Summer Olympics, is listed at close to six-foot-two. The 13-year-old De Jonge is already six-foot.
Her height and reach will only benefit De Jonge as she continues her growth in the pool.
“I was always tall for my age and being tall helps a lot, especially in the backstroke,” she said. “I have a longer reach than most of the swimmers I’m up against.”
The Sylvan Lake native, who swims for the Sylvan Lake Nauticals, is proving to be one of the top backstrokers in the country for her age class, despite only starting to concentrate on the stroke last July.
“I started with the butterfly and freestyle and last year I got into the backstroke, which I’m stronger at now.”
De Jonge was into dance, but turned her attention to swimming when she was eight.
She developed quickly, and, by her second year with the Sylvan Lake Club, she was competing at the top level under coach Trevor Burns.
De Jonge competes locally, provincially and at the Canadian age group junior national level.
At age 10, De Jonge was dominating the age group provincials in the freestyle.
This past year she competed at the Alberta Summer Games and qualified provincially for the Western championships in Calgary and the Canadian Age Group championships in Toronto.
She finished in the top 10 in all her finals at the Summer Games, winning the 200-metre backstroke, placing second in the 100m backstroke and third in the 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle. At the provincials she was third in the 100 and 200m backstroke and in the top 10 in all her finals.
Last year, she had a fifth in the U12 100 and 200m backstroke at the Canadian Age Group Nationals.
With this year’s Canadians in Toronto, Zoe would like nothing more than to meet Oleksiak.