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More options than just hockey for James Bertrim

The OHL Entry Draft often delivers a harsh dose of reality for aspiring young "AAA" hockey players in northern Ontario.

And though his eligibility to be selected is still two years away, talented young Sudbury prospect James Bertrim is already seeing the writing on the wall.

Thankfully, for this 14 year-old multi-sport competitor, there are other options.

"I watched the OHL draft last week and there were some really good players from Sudbury that didn't get drafted," said Bertrim, a grade eight student at Lo-Ellen Park.

"It just goes to show how hard it is if you want to try and make a career of it."

And though he is not suggesting that his impressive proficiency in the pool will see him making a career of competitive swimming, Bertrim does acknowledge that his future offers much greater possibilities following a sport that he first enjoyed, quite inauspiciously, as a youngster.

"I just remember on Saturday mornings, we would go for lessons at the YMCA for about an hour and a half, and then we would walk down to the bakery with some family friends of ours," said the younger of two children in the family (older sister Ali is also quite the accomplished swimmer).

Making his way over to the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club (SLSC), Bertrim began the journey that is still a long, long way from being completed.

"When I was younger, it was more developmental, getting your skills and techniques, so that you are prepared for when you are more competitive and have more intense workouts," he said. "Now, it's more about endurance and mileage and consistency."

In between, strokes ebbed in and out of favour. Initially, the freestyle was his thing - until it wasn't, any more. "Coach Connor (Watson) introduced me to the breaststroke and I got really going and got very good at it," stated Bertrim.

"The breaststroke is just so complementary to the IM (individual medley), because once you have a good breaststroke, it's such a big boost in that race. Initially, I was never really any good at it, but then we did so much technique work on it, focusing on the actual stroke, and it really came together."

"I think it was just the coordination and timing in the breaststroke, all coming together."

Of course, things are likely to change, over time. His stroke preferences could still be altered, a few times over, before he reaches the post-secondary ranks. And then there is that small matter of still juggling a boatload of different sporting activities, pretty much all of which Bertrim excels at right now.

"Swimming is just such a complementary sport to any other sport, not just hockey," he explained. "In cross country running, my endurance is so built up, I can hold the pace for so much longer." Bertrim would capture first place, last September, at the Laurentian Elementary Invitational Cross-Country Challenge.

"In hockey, I can skate and not get tired. But in hockey, there is just so much competition, especially down south. In swimming, there is a lot more opportunity for me, wherever I go."

The truth is that the time to narrow the focus, at least at an elite level, is likely right around the corner for James Bertrim. Certainly, his schedule would suggest that. "This year was really hard," he said.

"I was practicing seven or eight times a week for swimming. You're up early on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then I would have hockey practices until 10:00 p.m. in Hanmer, coming home around 10:45 p.m., and waking up at 4:45 a.m., which is really, really hard."

It's also not the best for athletic recovery, one would think.

Thankfully, Bertrim is nothing if not a thoughtful young man, well grounded, trying to take the landscape before him in stride. "I don't know what my future holds for me in swimming," he said.

"I still have growing to do, so I can figure myself out and practice to be good at everything."

Now that's something that James Bertrim already has plenty of practice at.

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