It is the longest break Sinead Russell can remember taking from swimming.
And who could blame her, having just competed at the Olympics where she reached the final of the 200-metre backstroke. But it wasn’t the need for a rest after the biggest race of her career that necessitated her time away from the pool.
In fact, Russell had just competed in her first collegiate meet for the University of Florida Gators, winning the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke as well as contributing to four relay triumphs at the All-Florida Invitational. It seemed she was simply picking right up where she left off, carrying her success in the Canadian club ranks into the American college scene.
Then in early October, Russell was riding her bike when the front wheel came off, sending her over the handlebars. The 19-year-old broke her elbow and damaged ligaments in her arm.
Russell spent much of the next seven weeks working on a stationary bike and lifting weights to keep her legs strong. She was even back in the pool while her arm was still in a cast. She returned to competition at the end of November and though she had success, Russell says she’s still not quite back to where she’d be at this point of the season.
That bodes well for Russell, who earned the female swim of the meet at the Swimming Canada World Championship Trials. She won the 100-metre backstroke in 1:00.12 to qualify for worlds and her time of 59.98 seconds in the preliminaries was just three-tenths of a second off her own Canadian record.
It was in the 200-metre that Russell said the interruption to her usual training was most evident. She finished third – just seven one-hundredths out of second – at world trials.
“Those seven weeks hurt my stamina,” she said. “I don’t have the same amount of fitness I would have (at this point in the season). I could have gone faster with (more) training.”
A week earlier at the NCAA championships, Russell earned a silver medal in the 100-yard backstroke and was sixth in the 200-yard back. She also helped five Gator relay teams reach finals as Florida finished sixth.
In addition to swimming in shorter pools measured in yards rather than metres, Russell said one of the biggest adjustments was competing in a team atmosphere. Having grown up swimming for the Dolphins Swim Club, which is smaller in relation to other Ontario clubs, the focus was still mainly on individual results.
“It’s good, but different at the same time. I didn’t grow up with that type of atmosphere,” she said. “You’re completely invested in how (teammates) swim.”
With the college season over, Russell will be focusing on her own swims. She will have a few meets to prepare leading up to the world championships, which will be held Barcelona, Spain in July.
Russell has always lived by the belief that if you have a lane, you have a chance but for worlds she is simply looking to be back in top form.
“I’ll race as hard as I can,” she said, “but I’m not setting any specific goals.”