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Olympics push a family matter for artistic swimmer Carroll

Canada artistic swim team in action

The thought of representing Canada in artistic swimming at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games in Paris is anything but routine for Sydney Carroll.

Attaining that goal – a special achievement in and of itself – would also mean following in the footsteps of her mother, Mary, who represented Canada in diving at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Mary continues to coach Canada’s divers to this day, while her daughter forges her own path in the world of aquatics.

Sydney grew up competing for the Saskatoon Aqualenes and has trained out of Montreal as a member of Canada’s senior national team since 2020 — one of two Saskatchewan-raised athletes currently on the roster.

“When I was younger, I think that’s what sparked my original Olympic dream,” Sydney said of her mom’s athletic resume. “I was just so in awe of that moment, like ‘I want to do that. That’s where I want to go.’ Now that she’s coaching her athletes and they have a shot of going to Paris, and I also have a shot at going to Paris … it would be just a full-circle, surreal moment.”

Canada’s next shot to realize that dream will be at the 2023 Pan American Games which are scheduled for Oct. 20-Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile. Another opportunity will arise next February at the 2024 World Championships in Qatar.

A gold medal there would assure Canada a spot in Paris. Canada will enter the Pan Am Games after placing sixth in team acrobatics, 14th in mixed team technical competition and 18th in the women’s duet technical event at this year’s World Aquatic Championships in July in Tokyo.

The Canadian team had big success barely a month earlier from the World Aquatic Championships when they returned from a World Cup Super Final event in Spain with one silver medal and three bronze. The World Cup event was a season highlight for a young team, as Kenzie Priddell sees it. Priddell is the other Saskatchewan athlete on the Canadian squad and the only remaining swimmer from the national team that performed at the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympic Summer Games in 2021.

“This year was a really big change for the sport because we have a new scoring system and … with all the new rule changes, when we went into our first competition, there was a lot of, I don’t want to say fear, but there’s some stress about making what you’ve declared,” she said. “That’s the same for our team and all the teams in the world, but we’ve started to change our own mindset to not worrying about thinking everything needs to be perfect.

“Instead, at the World Cup, we went in with the mindset that we’re confident, we’re proud of ourselves, we’re cheering each other on and really letting it out. We wanted to go in feeling like we can show we’re a force and not letting the stress or difficulty get to us.”

It’s a philosophy Sydney Carroll considers second nature.

“Every time when my mom would drop me off at practice it was always ‘Have fun,’” she said. “That’s what she always told me. Nothing about the sport, just ‘Have fun. How was practice? Is it fun? Are you enjoying it?’

“I think I’ve really gotten that from her. Yes it’s hard work to reach these goals and dreams and for me it’s all about finding the fun in the hard.”

Another part of that equation, for Priddell, is belief.

“If you believe in yourself and think this is your goal and you’re capable of this, it doesn’t matter what people say or think. You just need to keep trying and not let that dream go just because people say it’s too hard. If you truly want it you’ll find a way to make it happen and that’s something Syd and I really have in common.”

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