Zachary Dumas, Kleanza Cathers and Arthur Firmino when they still swam for the Marlins. (File photo)

Olympic hopeful Zach Dumas will have to put his dream on hold

Coronavirus stops his bid for Olympic qualification

Olympic hopeful and Kitimat swimming sensation Zach Dumas will have to shelve his dreams of competing against the world’s best swimmers, for now.

Zach recently qualified for the Olympic swimming trials which were scheduled to take place in Ontario from March 30 to April 5.

On Friday, March 13, the swimming fraternity received devastating news – Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi announced that the organization was cancelling or postponing all national events, including the Olympic and Paralympic swimming trials, through to at least April 20.

The Ontario government had instituted a ban of gatherings of more than 50 people as a measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“With 3,000 to 5,000 people expected to attend daily, our Olympic and Paralympic trials would grossly exceed the recommendations from Ontario’s chief medical officer. We also recognized that other provinces and cities restricted access to pools and that some athletes wouldn’t be able to train and prepare properly,” said El-Awadi.

He said the 2020 Eastern and Western Championships in Windsor, Ont. and Saskatoon, both from April 16 to 19, would also be cancelled.

Former Kitimat Marlins head coach Jason Cathers, who has been following Zach’s career, said the swimmer had been training hard with the University of Victoria swim team in preparation for what would have been his first Olympic swim trials.

”Less than one per cent of competitive swimmers in Canada ever qualify for any of the age group or senior time standards,” said Cathers. “The Olympic trials time standard are the toughest of all the national time standards to make, with way less than one per cent of competitive swimmers qualifying.”

There are 14 individual Olympic events for both male and female swimmers, and Zach qualified in two events:

* the 400m individual medley where swimmers swim 100 metres of each competitive stroke butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle,

* and the 200m breaststroke.

To qualify for the Olympics, Canadian swimmers must place top two in an individual event and meet the extremely challenging Olympic qualifying times. There are often times where team Canada will not send a swimmer for an Olympic event because no one in the country has met the qualifying standard.

Zach currently trains nine times a week averaging a staggering total distance of 50km of swimming per week. That works out to on average 2000 lengths of the Kitimat swimming pool every week.

During his Christmas break training camp, he swam significantly more than that.

“As a Kitimat Marlin, Zach blossomed from an 11 and 12-year-old boy, who just qualified for the lowest level provincial championships, to becoming stronger every season eventually winning multiple provincial medals in his mid-teens and a bronze medal at Western Canadian Nationals as a grade 12 student,” said Cathers who coached Zach from when he was 11 until he graduated,

He had lots of positives that helped him get to this point. A loving family that supported him, Randy and Deb Dumas, did a great job raising him and made many sacrifices to help Zachary. Having a child compete at a national level is very expensive.

Zach’s parents made sure he was able to attend every practice, training camp and competition. With training camps in the U.S. and competitions across B.C., Canada and California, it can get expensive.

Cathers said Zach worked hard, was dedicated but also consistently asked for extra technical help.

“Many times he stayed after practice for videotaping and to improve on weak spots in his swimming. It’s one of the reasons why his best swim event is the 400 Individual Medley where swimmers must be excellent at all four competitive swim strokes,” said Cathers.

“A lot of swimmers focus only on their best swim stroke and don’t work on the strokes they are not as good at. Zach wanted to be good at all his strokes and worked as hard or harder on his weakest swim strokes compared to his best strokes.”

When competing out of the Northwest region the swimmers from across the region compete under the Points North banner, one of the few swim associations in Canada, ensuring swimmers from across the region form strong friendships.

“The team spirit and friendships between swimmers both on their own team and other teams in the region is top-notch in Northwest B.C. It could be one of the reasons why the region has so many swimmers who swim at college and university,” said Cathers.

The Kitimat Marlins have two female athletes swimming at college – Alivia Soares at Northern Iowa and Kleanza Cathers at Barton College in North Carolina, and Arthur Firmino, Zach’s teammate both in Kitimat and at UVIC until he graduated last year.

“There are also two boys from Smithers and a girl from Prince Rupert swimming in colleges or universities in the U.S. and Canada. Obviously you don’t reach your full potential as an athlete until you become an adult,” said Cathers.

“The more swimmers you can have swimming in college or university the more you will have reaching their full potential.”

Zach had his best results for university swimming this season at the Canadian University Championships. He placed seventh in the 400 Individual Medley and 11th in the 200-metre breaststroke. Both swims were personal best times.

Zach still has two more swim seasons of eligibility at the University of Victoria. His swim times have continued to get faster each season.

Cathers said competing at his first Olympic swim trials would have been another step in Zach’s progression as a swimmer.

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