A Red Deer swimmer made a big splash in her first competition after coming out of retirement.
Jessica Johnson, a Red Deer Silhouettes Synchronized Swim Club coach, finished second in both technical routine and free routine in the senior solo category at the National Stream Provincial Qualifiers last weekend in Calgary.
“It felt really good to get back in the pool,” Johnson said. “It didn’t feel like I lost any of my abilities when I retired. The best thing about this sport is things come back so naturally, even after a five-year hiatus.”
The 27-year-old, who started swimming when she was 14, retired in 2012 when the Red Deer club eliminated its national program.
“We were strong for a couple years, but because we didn’t have enough athletes to feed into the program right away we kind of disbanded,” Johnson said.
The national program was losing athletes as they went to university and college, she said.
Last year, Johnson swam in the club’s Masters program and decided she wanted to get back into competing.
Johnson’s performance at the provincial qualifier earned her a spot in the provincial competition Feb. 9-12. If she is successful again, she will move onto the national qualifier in March.
Johnson’s goal is to finish top six in the national qualifier; however she said this year is more of a building block for the future because she hasn’t competed in so long.
“It’s hard to say how I’ll do because I don’t know who my competition is quite yet,” she added.
Some young Red Deer swimmers have been inspired by Johnson, she said.
“A lot of the girls at a young age are kind of looking up to where I am and they’re saying, ‘That could be me in a couple years.’
“Some of our girls are at the top of the provincial level this year and knowing there’s a possibility of going national, they can start pushing their training and getting their goals in place for how they’d like to do next year,” said Johnson.
The Red Deer Silhouettes Synchronized Swim Club is pushing to get the national program up and running again, said Johnson. The goal is to get Red Deer swimmers back on the Canadian stage, she added.