London, Ont. swimmer Maggie Mac Neil named to Canadian Olympic squad
LONDON, ONT. -- The City of London is developing quite the stable of Olympic athletes.
Swimmer Maggie Mac Neil was just added to Team Canada Jan. 22. and will compete in her first Olympic games this summer.
Swimming Canada would typically make the athletes earn a spot at trials in the spring, however six world-class swimmers were given an automatic berth.
"With trials and the two-week quarantine, I would have had to make a decision soon about when to return to Canada," says Mac Neil, who won a pair of races this weekend for the University of Michigan.
"I would have had to give enough time to train for trials and get back in shape for the meet. It’s great that I get to stay here and finish my season for the University of Michigan."
Her appointment to the team comes as reports continue to swirl about whether the games will actually take place in Tokyo, Japan this summer.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) members debunked rumours the games will be cancelled, but those uncertainties have already taken a toll on the competitors.
"It has been challenging for a lot of athletes to hear rumours and speculations all the time," says Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont.
"Personally I put my blinders on, and focus on important organizations and federations that should influence the information I should be getting. I'm listening to Swimming Canada, the IOC, COC [Canadian Olympic Committee] and not getting caught up in rumours and speculations. The more you listen to those things the more you can get in your head, and I don't think it's beneficial for me to begin to believe they are not going to happen."
Mac Neil agreed, saying she's taking advice from Swimming Canada.
"They told us strictly not to follow the news because everything can change," says Mac Neil. "It's important to focus on training and we'll see what happens with Olympics in a month or two."
At Western University's Centre for Olympic Studies, former Olympian Angela Schneider is keeping a close eye on all the news surrounding the games.
"The IOC, [Canadian Olympic Association], IPC [International Paralympic Committee] all closed ranks and said we have not cancelled and we are still trying," says Schneider. "They says there is a playbook to be released in February with ways to make this safe and make it happen."
She says with rising case counts around the world, new variants being discovered, and Japan not rolling out vaccines yet, there is plenty of uncertainty.
Schneider says the probability of the games taking place is not high, but it's important for athletes to keep high hopes.
"A very small percentage of athletes go on to do two Olympiads," says Schneider.
"The next time the Summer Games come around is 2024 in France. What athletes will be at the top of their game in 2024? It’s not going to a high percentage."
If the games do take place, Mac Neil will be ready to compete.
"I'm always reading the news so the most important thing is focus on training," says Mac Neil, the world butterfly champion. "It's better to be prepared for a games that doesn't happen, then not be prepared and have the games go on."
Mac Neil joins decathlete Damian Warner and pole vaulter Alysha Newman as locks to make Team Canada.
Soccer players Jessie Fleming and Shelina Zadorsky are part of a 29-player squad named to the SheBelievesCup in Florida next month. Canada Soccer will take 18 players to the Olympics.