VERNON – A young Vernon swimmer is making a name for himself province wide. This week Riley McLean received a Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport.
“When they chose me I was pretty excited until I found out I had to speak in front of over a thousand people,” says McLean.
His acceptance speech went off without a hitch and McLean was able to enjoy meeting the premier and receiving the recognition.
That was Monday. By Thursday, McLean was back in Vernon going through his regular training at the pool.
The 16-year-old swims six days a week and all his hard work is paying off with achievements in the water.
“He’s improved so much compared with two and a half years [ago],” says his coach Renate Terpstra.
“Last year he…did so well and qualified for the Parapan Am Games in Toronto and that was huge!”
The Vernon teen lives with a condition that limits his movements but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a force to be reckoned with in the pool.
His coach says he currently holds two national records for his category of competitor and is constantly improving on his personal bests.
Terpstra says at a recent Swim B.C. Open, McLean took three seconds of his time in the 50-metre butterfly breaking his own Canadian record.
Now he has set his sights on something even bigger: the Paralympics. In April, McLean will travel to Toronto to compete in the trials for this year’s games.
“We’ve been training really hard and doing lots and lots of test sets to get me ready for this,” he says.
Terpstra says McLean needs to take five and a half seconds off his personal best time to qualify. If he doesn’t qualify this year, McLean will focus on getting to the Paralympics in Japan in 2020.
“I know for sure I will be able to make it then because I’ll have four extra years of training. We’ve noticed every month or two months I’ve been getting more fit and losing lots of weight,” he says.
His coach says McLean is a role model for others.
“I’m very proud of him. He works hard. [He’s a] very determined boy,” she says.
“Look for him in Japan 2020 for sure!”