The last competitive stop before leaving for Florida State University for local swimmer Nina Kucheran may well be her most exotic trip yet. And as a bonus, she will share it with her long-time SLSC (Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club) coach Dean Henze.
Both coach and swimmer were leaving northern Ontario on Wednesday, catching up with the remainder of the Canadian contingent in Toronto and Los Angeles, as no less than 32 athletes will represent the country, from August 23rd to the 28th, in Fiji at the 2018 Pan Pacific Junior Swimming Championships.
"The way that she is training and the speeds that she is training at are starting to reach unprecedented levels," said Henze. "It's been fun to watch." Battling health concerns, not all of which were injuries that related to swimming, in any way, shape or form, has been something of a constant for Kucheran in recent years.
The past twelve months, however, have been far more encouraging. "She hasn't had any major setbacks, and that's had a huge impact on her ability to just keep pushing the envelope. And the few times that I've pushed really, really hard, she lets me know when we're nearing that edge."
Juggling distances in both the breaststroke and individual medley in the South Pacific, Kucheran will gear up somewhat differently for the Pan-Pacifics than she would for almost any other SLSC related meet, clearly lending more credence to some races versus others.
"For an average meet, that's certainly the case, but this is far from average," said Henze. "Her priorities will be the breaststrokes. When you're racing the best in that section of the world, in that age group, the goal is going to be just making sure that in your best events, you're finishing as high as possible."
With participating countries limited to a maximum of two entries in any final, Henze looks to delegations from Japan, the U.S., China and Australia as providing plenty of competition for Kucheran and her teammates.
Ranked somewhere around #70 in the world in the 200m breaststroke, and with many of those ahead of her simply not age eligible to compete in Fiji, the Sudbury coach and swimmer tandem have targeted a podium finish as potentially realistic, if things come together the way they expect.
"I would be very disapointed if she wasn't at least 2:27," said Henze. "The goal is going to be to see how close to 2:26.00 she can get." With the Pan-Pacific Championships behind her, Kucheran will leave directly for Tallahassee (Florida) for her NCAA freshman season, breaking up the fall with a visit to Argentina in October, site of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.