Puhalski thrives at Canada Summer Games | Local Sports

WINNIPEG — There’s strength in numbers.

Just ask Thunder Bay swimmer Lindsay Puhalski, who contributed her talents to winning relay teams at the 2017 Canada Summer Games at the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg.

The 15-year-old athlete won four medals this past week as a member of Team Ontario. She ended her impressive run with a bronze medal in the 200 IM on Friday night.

Puhalski’s initial relay victory came on Monday — her first day of competition — when Team Ontario captured silver in the women’s 4×200-free relay.

“I was so happy that I got it, just to be on the podium,” says the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts standout. “The feeling of being out there at this meet was different than any other competition.”

The following day, she added a gold medal to her collection as a member of Ontario’s 4×50 free relay team.

“It was so amazing just getting a medal,” she says of the race. “When she (last swimmer for the team) touched the wall, I hugged my teammates.”

On Thursday, Puhalski once again helped her team grab gold, this time in the 4×100 free relay.

“It was amazing to get another gold,” she says. “I went under a minute for the first time in long course. It was really exciting.”

Puhalski had a busy week of races that included a personal best time by three seconds in the 50 breaststroke during the preliminaries on Tuesday.

“I wasn’t really expecting anything from that race,” says the surprised swimmer. “It was just a warm up for the 400-m individual medley.”

In the 400 IM , which she considers her best event, she had hoped to get a medal but finished fifth. Going into the competition on Aug. 8, she was ranked second in Canada for her age group in the 400-m IM.

“I was a little disappointed,” she admits of her initial reaction. “I was five seconds slower than my best time.”

In the 400 free on Wednesday, she was one second off her best time, while the following day, her 200-m freestyle and 200-m backstroke races were a little slower than usual.

Stu McLean, head coach of the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts Swim Club, has been coaching Puhalski the past seven years since her foray into the competitive sphere.

He was also one of the staff coaches for Team Ontario this week.

“I’m just incredibly proud of her,” he says of her first experience at a major event. “Her ambition is to be on the national team. That’s what we’re working for.”

Also on hand to see her showcase her skills were her mother Erin, father Jim, sister Jamie, brother Ben and grandparents Bev and Rick Carson. Cousins from Winnipeg came to see her swim, too.

Puhalski says she enjoyed the networking experience and the support of family, friends and the crowd at swimming races.

“I’m so happy I got to meet so many people and to swim against so many fast people — great people,” she says.

Prior to her arrival in Winnipeg last week, Puhalski was doing pre-competition training with Team Ontario at the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto.

The dedicated athlete swims mostly at the Canada Games Complex and occasionally at Lakehead University. Puhalski’s regular routine includes two hours of training six mornings a week, followed by another couple of hours after school a few times a week.

She also does a yoga session once a week and dryland training. Puhalski juggles that with her high school studies and will be going into Grade 10 at St. Ignatius High School in the fall.

Puhalski recalls her humble beginnings in the sport, when she first learned how to swim in her grandmother’s backyard pool, under the watchful eye of an instructor.

“I was progressing through the levels fast,” she recalls.

With the Canada Summer Games about to end on Aug. 13, Puhalski sums up her week in Winnipeg.

“It’s just about the experience, going there and having fun and meeting new people,” she explains. “It’s just to have the support of your teammates and to be on a team together.”

Janet Fuchek is a Thunder Bay-based writer. She is in Winnipeg covering the Canada Summer Games.

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