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ROBIN SHORT: Same venue, different sport; Carroll has Olympic dreams

Sydney Carroll is one of seven newcomers invited to join the national artistic swimming senior squad as it prepares for the 2021 competitive season, which could include the Tokyo Olympics. – Submitted photo
Sydney Carroll is one of seven newcomers invited to join the national artistic swimming senior squad as it prepares for the 2021 competitive season, which could include the Tokyo Olympics. – Submitted photo - Contributed

Sydney Carroll quite literally grew up at the swimming pool, first the Aquarena in St. John’s and later in Saskatoon, Sask.

It might even be suggested chlorinated water runs through her veins.

Well, maybe not, but point is we shouldn’t be surprised the St. John’s-born artistic swimmer — the sport once known as synchronized swimming — has been added to the group of athletes training for a berth on the 2020-21 national senior team.

Carroll, 17, moved to Montreal earlier this month to begin training full-time with Canadian Olympic hopefuls (for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, postponed from this past summer, and possibly the 2024 Paris Summer Games).

Another St. John’s native, Catherine Barrett, a national senior team member since 2018, is also in Montreal.

Carroll is also attending McGill University in Montreal after graduating from her Saskatoon high school last spring.

She left St. John’s for Saskatchewan when she was four, with her parents who headed west to take up paid coaching positions in Saskatoon.

Steve and Mary Carroll are well known in diving circles. Both coached at the Aquarena, piloting Newfoundland and Labrador provincial teams and Canada Games squads.

Both were also active competitors back in the day. Mary Carroll won national titles while competing for her native Ontario, as well as a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and an eighth-place finish at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

St. John’s-born Sydney Carroll is in Montreal training for a berth on the 2020-21 national senior artistic swimming team. – Submitted photo - Contributed
St. John’s-born Sydney Carroll is in Montreal training for a berth on the 2020-21 national senior artistic swimming team. – Submitted photo - Contributed

So how was it their only daughter steered towards artistic swimming rather than a sport in which the parents excelled?

“Yeah, she had the genes for diving,” Steve Carroll chuckled. “She liked it. She hung around the pool when she was a baby. She was jumping off the boards younger than anyone I know.

“Mary and I talked a lot about it. We didn’t want to be her coaches, spending all the time at the pool together, then coming home and trying to be parents.

“We wanted to be strictly parents with her. I hope that didn’t restrict her in terms of sports, but you know, if she really wanted to be a diver, she could have.”

Instead, young Sydney joined gymnastics after moving to the Prairies. It provided a good base of core strength, great flexibility, and excellent co-ordination. From a competitive perspective, she earned some podium finishes at provincials.

But, given her pedigree, she couldn’t stay away from the water.

And she found her lot in artistic swimming.

“Synchronized swimming is becoming a more athletic, acrobatic type of sport, and we’d get to see her at the pool quite often,” her father said. “So, it was a good fit for us to try and get her into that. She loved it from the first day she started.

“I might be a little selfish, but I really wanted to be a dad. As much as you say you separate the home and the pool, it’s really tough to do. I just didn’t want to be in that situation.

“She never said she didn’t want to dive, and I don’t know if we dissuaded her. But she loved gymnastics from the start. But when you start getting into 24 hours per week (training), that’s a little too demanding, too stressful at that age. She could not keep up with the demands of that sport.”

While Catherine Barrett returns to Canada’s national senior team, the reigning FINA World Series and Pan Am Games champion, Carroll is one of seven newcomers invited to join the squad as it prepares for the 2021 competitive season, which could include the Tokyo Olympics.

Nineteen athletes are currently in Montreal training full-time with the team.

Initially, the plan for Carroll was to move to Montreal, attend McGill and vie for a position on the junior national team.

“Then we got a call months ago,” said Steve Carroll, “saying she was bumped up to the senior team.

“It probably has lot to do with the (Tokyo) Olympics being pushed back (to 2021 from 2020). A few senior team members are not returning.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there for her.”

Especially when taking into consideration she’s still only 17.

“In terms of being an Olympic artistic swimmer, she’s still a baby,” her father said. “She’s really where she is on hard work and determination.”

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.

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