By Jessica Bednarski
Mia West is 13-years-old, and along with getting ready for Grade 8, she’s also preparing to represent Manitoba at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Saskatchewan this summer.
It was an easy decision to sign Mia up for swimming, said her mother Riley West.
When Mia was only a year old, her parents would put her in the tub and let her splash around for hours because she loved it so much. Mia then spent her toddler years crawling around in the gutters at the pool while her parents worked as swim coaches. It also helped a little that Mia’s parents, Riley and Bo, are accomplished swimmers, both passionate about the sport and still heavily involved in the swimming community.
Mia’s father grew up in Denmark and was a member of the Danish National Swim Team, competing at the 1993 European Youth Olympic Games, 1995 European Junior Championships and the 1999 and 2000 European Championships. He graduated from Arizona State University as a four year All American, competing in the middle distance freestyle and backstroke events and was a member of ASU's 4x200 freestyle relay placing 2nd at the 2000 NCAA Championships.
After graduating from ASU, he moved on to coaching age group swimmers at Etobicoke Swim Club in Toronto, before relocating to Winnipeg.
Mia’s mother also has quite the impressive swim resume, as she started her career as a member of Manta Swim Club at the age of seven and held numerous provincial age group and senior records. Riley later competed at the 1995 Pan Pacific Championships and the 1996 Olympic Games as a member of Team Canada. Riley graduated from Arizona State University as a four year All American, competing in the breaststroke and IM events, placing 4th at the 1999 NCAA Championships. She was the women’s team captain in her junior and senior years and helped lead the team to a top 10 finish at the NCAAs in 2002.
After graduating from ASU, she moved on to coaching age group swimmers at Etobicoke Swim Club in Toronto and later the Assiniboine Masters in Winnipeg. Riley is a former Masters World Record holder (50 & 200 Breaststroke). She is now a kindergarten teacher at Balmoral Hall School and enjoys volunteering with the St. James Seals Swim Club.
Just as swimming runs in the family for the Wests, so does breaking records. This past year, Mia has been blowing her competitors out of the water (not literally) and has been breaking some pretty old records at the same time. On a single weekend, Mia updated five of the 15 individual events records in her age group, two of which were doubles events, for a total of seven records in four days. The oldest record Mia broke was the 400 IM, previously held by Dawn Gilhooly, which dates back over 40 years to 1978 - before her parents even learned to swim.
As for Mia, she doesn’t worry much about the records. In fact, she usually doesn’t even realize when it happens. Mia simply loves the sport and even looks forward to her six days of practices a week.
“I get to be there with all my friends and it’s a good place to clear my mind,” says Mia with a smile.
But, out of all six days, Saturday practices are Mia’s favourite because the practices are extra long, lasting for two hours rather than an hour, or an hour and a half.
“You want to have fun, you have to love it, and if you don’t enjoy it then there’s not really a point,” said Mia.
Mia prides herself on being a diverse swimmer, as she is very well rounded in her sport. She excels at the fly, back, breast, and free. She has not specialized yet, and is not in a rush to do so either. Mia’s parents encourage her to explore every event before specializing and Mia currently loves doing it all.
“There’s nothing like smelling that chlorine, it brings peaceful thoughts to me,” she said.
As for the Western Canada Summer Games, Mia just wants to have fun and to maybe swim a few best times to end her swimming season with a bang. She also looks forward to riding the bus to Swift Current with her friends, hanging out at the athletes' village, eating at the cafeteria and meeting athletes from other sports.
*Photos from Renee Kardash.