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By COACH RUSSELL, 03/23/17, 8:15AM EDT


Mar 20, 2017 |

 Dolphins swimmers deliver record-setting performances in Niagara Dolphins swimmers deliver record-setting performances

Dolphins swimmers deliver record-setting performances Nikki Wesley — Burlington Post

Sophia Lee, left, and Shannon Russell each won seven gold medals on their way to their division high-point titles at the Niagara LSC Championships. They combined to set seven meet records.

Burlington Post By Herb Garbutt Sophia Lee isn’t much different than any other 10-year-old. Ask her a question and you’re likely to get a short answer, not more than a few words long. Until you ask her about swimming. Why does she like it so much? “I enjoy competing against other people, seeing who’s faster,” she says, before her answer morphs into one you would expect from a competitor twice her age. “I like to see who has the heart to win, who’s tougher.” At the Niagara LSC Championships earlier this month, nobody had more heart than Lee. The Dolphins Swim Club member established five meet records and set new club standards in all seven of her events on her way to the overall point title in the girls’ 10-and-under division. In the 500-yard freestyle, Lee could have got out of the pool, toweled off and got a start on lunch before her nearest rival finished. She won by 45 seconds. She added six more victories in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyle, the 50 and 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the Grade 5 Ascension Elementary School student has trouble coming up with a favourite event, listing five when the question is posed. Neither should her goals for the future. “I want to go to the Olympics and be a gold medalist,” she says.

Shannon Russell was equally dominant at the Niagara meet, also winning seven races on her way to the point title in the 13-14-year-old girls’ division. Russell established two meet records and seven club records in taking the 200 and 500-yard freestyle, the 200 and 400-yard IM, the 100 and 200-yard breaststoke and the 200-yard butterfly. Russell said her biggest improvement came in the 100-yard breaststroke and credited the encouragement of teammates Aly El Shamy and Gabrielle Harris for her performance. “To have two of my teammates cheering me on and having that support,” she said, “it makes you want to go faster, just for them.” Her personal best times are an encouraging sign as Russell prepares for the Commonwealth junior trials next month. Though the 14-year-old said she’s nervous about the meet, she is looking forward to it and the opportunity to qualify for an international meet. “It would be kind of cool to know where I stand in the world,” she said.

The Dolphins had several other strong performances at the Niagara meet. Nil Pakkal, 12, won six medals (three gold, two silver and one bronze); El Shamy, 12, won two gold, two silver and a bronze while also setting three club records; Ashley Hodge, 12, also earned six medals (a gold, three silver and two bronze) and set a club record. Pavol Verona, 10, won five medals (a gold, three silver and a bronze); Joanne Chiarotto, 15, earned a gold and silver medal; and Michael Wang, 14, established seven club records on his way to three silver and three bronze medals. Reese Salisbury, Stefan Tanaskovic, Nicholas Wang, Avishka Delivera, Melissa Er, Gabrielle Harris, Kathleen Moore, Paige Moore, Dai Gao Wen, Helen Wu, Haomin Ye, Zheng Hu, Daniel Lai and Rally Lin each made finals.