Overholt takes on the world

Gold rolling in for West Van swimmer

WEST Vancouver's 15-year-old Emily Overholt is taking this whole summer vacation thing pretty seriously.

Last month she zipped over to Quebec to visit Pointe-Claire before returning to la Belle Province this month for a stop in Sherbrooke. When the North Shore News caught up with her last week she was all the way over in spicy Barcelona, preparing to go even farther afield to the desert jewel of Dubai.

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She's not stopping by all these places for the poutine and beaches though - she's got other prizes on her mind. At the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre she won the women's 200-metre butterfly at Swimming Canada's 2013 Summer National Championships. That's a senior national title - for a 15-year-old.

When she returned to Quebec she upped the stakes even more, claiming three gold medals and a silver at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke. She would have added a bronze as well but the result was wiped out when her B.C. relay team was disqualified following the final.

Overholt then packed her swimsuits up once more and headed to Barcelona for a staging camp to prepare for the FINA World Juniors starting tomorrow in Dubai. Now that's a pretty interesting summer.

"Swimming has given me so many great opportunities to travel and meet new people and it's always very exciting to be able to see new places around the world while doing the sport you love," Overholt wrote in an email to the North Shore News during some downtime at the Barcelona camp. "I feel very lucky to have had these opportunities at my age."

Overholt, entering her Grade 11 year at Collingwood School this fall, began swimming with the West Van Otters when she was nine years old. When she was 12 she started working with the club's head coach, Janusz Kaczmarek, and proceeded to shock him with her improvement in the sport.

Kaczmarek remembers taking 12-year-old Overholt to a December competition that was lower than provincial level. By July her times had picked up so much that he was entering her in the age-group national championships. She went and she won, claiming the 100-m butterfly title.

"That is incredible improvement through seven months time. I don't think I've ever seen that before."

Since then her talent has only grown. Her body has too, and this summer she's demonstrating how fast she can be with the oncoming strength of adulthood combined with her technique which has always been strong.

"She's technically very advanced," said Kaczmarek, adding that she's also very adept at coming up with a race strategy and executing it in the water. He listed a few other attributes that are the forces pushing her to become a champion. "It is her commitment to the sport, it is her work ethic - which is of the highest level - and a great amount of talent. Put all three together, put her in the right situation and she's capable of doing truly outstanding things."

In January Overholt attended the Australian Youth Olympic Festival where she finished fourth in the 400-m individual medley and 200-m butterfly. "My favourite moment in my swimming career so far," she said of the festival. "It was my first multi sport games and it was a great experience and so much fun."

Overholt's races might not be so much fun, however, for the swimmers who are three, four, maybe even 10 years older than her.

"Competing against 18 and 19 year olds is actually pretty common in swimming," said Overholt, calling it "normal" for her to be racing against adults. Normal or not, Overholt was still quite surprised at the massive haul she took in during the Canada Games, a competition open to athletes up to 19 years of age.

"I was definitely surprised to win four medals at the Games and I'm very happy with these results," she said. She won the 200-metre individual medley, 400-m freestyle and 400-m individual medley while earning silver in the 200-m freestyle.

She'll try to make the same splash this week in Dubai where she'll be racing in the 400-m individual medley, 200-m individual medley, 200-m butterfly and 4x100-m relay against swimmers up to 18 years of age. With the world waiting for her, Overholt is all pumped up.

"It's an exciting time for me because it's the highest level of competition I've ever been to," she said. "We're getting closer and closer to the meet and I'm really excited to start racing."

Whatever happens, Overholt will certainly have no trouble filling a few pages in the "What I did on my summer vacation" essay the first week of school. With shiny hardware in tow, it might be best just to make it a show and tell.

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