as lights out at the Canada Cup last weekend, setting two new UBC records and touching the wall for five gold medals.
In action at the Etobicoke Olympium complex, located just down the 401 from Toronto Nov. 23-24 at the big annual Canada Cup swim meet, Aspinall and his teammates, who were there representing their club team the UBC Dolphins, kicked off the three race series in style.
The Canada Cup consists of three short course grand prix’s — the Ontario meet, then at UBC in May, then wraps up in Montreal in June.
The meet in Ontario had 34 events over two days and featured 325 swimmers aged 15-28 from across Canada including 13 Olympians.
In all, four UBC swimmers earned a spot on top of the podium, and they won the team standings “going away.”
According to the UBC website Aspinall, 22, continued his strong start to the season winning the 100m Freestyle in a time of 48.45, the 100m Backstroke in 52.60, and the 50m Butterfly in 23.46, which was a new meet record.
His backstroke time was just six one-hundredths off American Olympic star Ryan Lochte’s 2006 meet record. Both his times in the butterfly and backstroke were new UBC varsity records.
On the Saturday, Aspinall won the 50M Backstroke and 50M Freestyle Saturday with times of 24.41 and 22.21, giving him five gold medals for the weekend.
“That was kind of the goal coming in here,” the dedicated Oceansider said after, explaining “everyone’s all over the map so it’s hard to judge where people are going to be. So I just came in and raced hard and luckily got my hand on the wall in a few events.”
“I’ve been working really hard with my coach. He just kind of broke me back down to the basics last year and we’ve just been building since then. It’s starting to click now so hopefully we just keep going the way it’s been going.”
“It’s a big deal — it was a pretty dominating performance on his part,” UBC head coach Steve Price confirmed when asked about Aspinall’s five gold medals, adding “Kelly has some real high goals he’s set for himself this season his final year with the varsity team.
UBC’s Tommy Gossland from Nanaimo was named the CIS Male Athlete of the Year for swimming and earned a berth on the 2012 Olympic team. Gossland and Aspinall have been teammates for years “and Kelly’s trying to emulate that in his final year with the Thunderbirds so he’s definitely off to a good start.”
Asked for some insight into Aspinall the swimmer, Price, who has been coaching for some 30 years including numerous postings with the Canadian National team including two Olympics, said “Kelly works really hard. He’s always had some ability and he’s always had some speed, and now he’s starting to round into form. He’s still pretty young and he’s only going to get better. In his events he’s ranked top five in the country at any time, and his performance at the Canada Cup will put him right up at the top.”
“I can tell ‘ya he’s a real competitor, he’s a real student of the sport. He knows all about his competition and he really studies the world of swimming. He’s really developed himself personally and has a lot more confidence towards racing and his position in swimming, so it’s actually been quite pleasant to see how he’s developed over the last two years.”
Like his teammates, Aspinall trains every evening and three mornings a week while also holding down a busy academic schedule.
Aspinall, who grew up in Nanoose Bay and attended BSS, started swimming competitively when he was eight and swam with the RAC Breakers out of Ravensong right through high school (10 years in all) under Breakers’ head coach John Campbell, who was a mentor to him.
“It was definitely one of the highlights of my career so far,” Aspinall said when The NEWS caught up with him this week. “In terms of my performances it was the best of my career to this point, and after I was being mentioned in the same sentence as some of the top guys, and that’s something I’ve never experienced before, being mentioned in the same light as them, so yeah it’s definitely exciting, and it inspires me to keep going.”
Worth noting is that the UBC team for years was led by Brent Hayden, who holds numerous Canadian records and who at 29 won a bronze medal in London in the 100m Free, has officially retired from the team.
“Basically I’m just trying to beat everybody in the country and follow in Brent’s footsteps,” said Aspinall, adding “there’s a lot of opportunities on the national team and even on the club team right now because he was the guy to beat and no one could beat him for like 10 years, so now there’s a big gap to fill.”