When Patrick Waters made the decision to kick his competitive swimming career into a higher gear, he knew it would require a fundamental change to not only his life, but also for his wife and two children.
Driving two hours from Kamloops to train with KWIC in Kelowna was just part of the logistical “juggling act” that had to happen.
“I’d say there’s a whole lot of conversations that happen behind the scenes that people don’t know about,” said Waters, 33.
“My life revolves around training.”
It’s paid off at least.
Waters is now in Lima, Peru, with Team Canada at the Para Pan Am Games.
He enters the 100-metre breastroke today ranked in the top 10. With many of the world’s best from outside the Americas, he’s a medal contender at the Para Pan Ams.
He said he’s overwhelmed at the prospect of wearing the Maple Leaf and competing for his country.
“It’s truly a dream come true,” he said.
Waters chose KWIC because he wanted to train with coach Emil Dimitrov, an Olympic-calibre swimmer himself who helped coach West Kelowna’s Kierra Smith to the 2016 Rio Games.
“His dedication helps him in his roles as an athlete, father and professional,” Dimitrov wrote in an email. “He has a very strong personality ... (and is) very committed to the sport.”
Waters said he also appreciates the collaboration, team atmosphere and “energy on the pool deck” with KWIC (Kelowna-West Kelowna Integrated Club).
“It’s just tremendous support,” he said.
Waters, who was born with congenital hip dysplasia and has a dropped foot, swims in the SB9 category.
He calls himself part of the “invisible” or “walking disabled.”
Look at him, he said, and you’d be hard pressed to know he’s any different than his KWIC teammates. He swam competitively during his time at UBC Vancouver. Thanks to today’s surgeons, bracing technology and therapists, he enjoys great freedom in his life.
Not only is he an accomplished swimmer, Waters is a full-time exercise physiologist. He works with high-performance athletes in Kamloops as well as those who are rehabilitating from traumatic incidents in their lives, such as car crashes or workplace injuries.
He spends about 18 hours per week in the pool, commuting to Kelowna when the training demands it.
That’s on top of raising two children, with a third on the way.
That’s why committing to the Para-Pan Am Games wasn’t just a personal decision.
In some regards, Waters said, the people who have supported him up until this point are now providing some extra motivation.
His parents drove “hundreds of hours” back and forth from swimming pools at all hours of the day, he said.
He’s also a role model for younger people facing physical barriers in their lives. He has been approached by parents in the past asking about swimming as an outlet for their children.
Waters said his presence on KWIC is, in some way, “removing some of those barriers.”
“There’s just so much awareness now,” he said.
That’s all with him this week, a medal contender for Team Canada.
He’s there with one thought on his mind: “This body can move, so let’s see what we can do.”
NOTES — The Games conclude Sept. 1. Watch at paralympic.org/lima-2019. … Waters heads to Lima with a personal best time of 1:12.99. Russian swimmer Pavel Poltavtsev set the SB9 world record of 1:04.02 at the 2012 London Games.