May, 15, 2015
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Canada's female junior relay initiative paid dividends with a gold medal at the Charlotte Pro Swim Series on Friday, while breaststroker Richard Funk went to the wall with a familiar foe for silver in the men's 100 metres.

This week, Swimming Canada held a unique training camp involving eight promising female swimmers with the aim of bolstering the country's relay performance. The camp was designed to foster teamwork, rather than simply assign the fastest freestylers to relay. The payoff came in impressive fashion during the women’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay. The Canada A team of Chantal Van Landeghem, Sandrine Mainville, Michelle Williams and 14-year-old Penny Oleksiak finished in three minutes and 41.13 seconds, beating a home-state team from SwimMAC Carolina at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center.

“The relay was really good,” Oleksiak said after bringing the gold home for Canada in her first Pro Swim Series meet. “I was telling the team beforehand, 'you have to get me a lead.' Then it started and Michelle was going so fast. She touched the wall and I looked over and we were so far ahead already. I just did my best to keep it.

“I looked over at the SwimMAC anchor and thought, 'what am I going to do?' “ Oleksiak added. “All the girls were pretty good at reassuring me – 'you can do this, we're going to do win.' “

Oleksiak, a member of the Toronto Swim Club, did not hesitate to trace the success back to the female junior relay initiative.

"It was really, really fun this week to train with the older girls for relay – learn how to build a lead and how to get off the blocks really fast,” she said. “The camp helped me a lot personally. I get to work with the older swimmers once or twice a week if I'm lucky. But going into a camp with people I normally race was great.”

Canada B, consisting of Emily Overholt, Rebecca Smith, Mary-Sophie Harvey and Danika Huizinga, finished a strong third at 3:48.62.

In the men's 100 breaststroke, Funk and Big Ten rival Cody Miller pulled away early along with Brazil's Felipe Lima. Miller won in one minute 1.04 seconds, edging Funk (1:01.09) and Lima (1:01.34), who owns the fourth-fastest 100-m breaststroke time in the world this season.

Funk, who's building up toward competing in the Pan Am Games in July, was pleased by how he made a push after the turn to seal a podium spot.

“That's something I have been working on in the last month or so since national trials – just trying to get out fast but a lot more controlled and then being able to bring it home much faster,” said the 22-year-old Edmonton native, who is swimming with Club Wolverine this weekend. “I thought I was able to do that really well. It would have been nice to touch before Cody but that's how it goes in swimming.

“We know each other well after swimming after each other for the last four years and last year at the Pan Pacific [championships], and we'll be swimming against each other again at worlds,” Funk said of Miller. “It's blossomed quite well as a rivalry. He's a nice guy and we have a good relationship. It's always fun when we get to race head-to-head. The cards were in his favour, I guess.”

For Funk, the outcome affirmed that he's continued making progress since his trials performance in early April, where he qualified for the Pan Am Games by winning two golds and a silver.

“I'm really excited. It's been a good block of training for me since trials,” Funk said. “I'm excited to do more in-season bests. That was the second-best time in a breaststroke that I've ever done without a shave and a taper, by quite a bit. So I'm really excited about that.”

The Charlotte meet essentially represents Funk's transition from collegiate swimming. Following his graduation from Michigan earlier this month, he was named an academic all-district selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

“I graduated early May, so I'm just kind of all focused on swimming,” said Funk, a nine-time all-America. “The results have paid off so far. I'm just exciting for the summer and the future next year [before the 2016 Olympics].

Canada's Santo Condorelli reached the final in men's 100 butterfly. Condorelli, 20, who became a Canadian citizen earlier this year, finished eighth in 54.13 seconds among a field that included former Olympic champions Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Lochte and Phelps were second and third behind Tom Shields (52.12).