Revelstoke’s James LeBuke will be swimming for Team Canada at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
He is one of 19 swimmers that was selected after the Canadian Swimming Trials in Toronto April 3-17.
In the 100 meter freestyle event, LeBuke swam a 50.27, improving his time by a second and a half, earning him a spot in the A final, a final that showcases the top ten overall competitors in the Senior event.
This event was so strong that only one other junior swimmer was among the top twenty competitors.
“To put his 100 meter freestyle performance into perspective, only a handful of junior swimmers have ever swum faster than 51 seconds,” LeBuke’s dad said in a news release.
Lebuke finished 9th overall in that race and second in the 18 and under category.
LeBuke also swam a personal best time in the 50 freestyle. His time of 22.99 was good enough to earn a ninth place finish in the Senior A final in that event.
His time broke the BC Provincial Record for 15-17 year old boys set by 2016 Olympian Marcus Thormeyer in 2015. LeBuke also narrowly missed the Canadian record by 0.3 seconds, for 15-17 boys, set in 2015 by 2016 Olympian Yuri Kisil .
This 50 freestyle time for LeBuke is one of only three times under 23 seconds by a 17 year old in Canadian swimming history.
LeBuke travels from Revelstoke to Salmon Arm five times a week to train with his team, the Columbia Shuswap Selkirks Swim Club, a winter club (swimming year round), leaving school 40 minutes early nearly every day.
He also trains here in town with the Revelstoke Aquaducks winter maintenance program two mornings a week, and does dryland the other mornings.
LeBuke grew up swimming with the Aquaducks each summer, and this is only his second full year of winter club year round swimming.
It has been a huge trajectory for LeBuke moving up through the ranks in Canadian Swimming through a lot of hard work, dedication and self-motivation.
At the World Junior Swimming Championships, LeBuke will compete in the 50 and 100 meter free individual events as well as the 4 by 100 freestlye relay, the 4 by 100 medley relay and the 4 by 200 freestyle relay.
Ken McKinnon, Swimming Canada National Development Team Coach, said the team heading to the Championships has plenty of medal potential.
“There are a few more boys poised in the medal hunt than there are women at this point of time. We have a really good, strong group of boys we have been exposing to different specific, challenging training camps. We are starting to see a little bit of a payoff,” said McKinnon, who will be the team leader. “Our women are always traditionally strong so we expect they will rise to the occasion.”
The FINA World Junior Swimming Championships have been a launching pad for many top Canadian athletes. Double Olympic medallist Taylor Ruck is the most decorated ever athlete with 13 medals at the World Junior Swimming Championships. One year before winning four medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Penny Oleksiak broke onto the scene winning six medals at the 2015 FINA World Junior Championships.
This year many of the athletes heading to Budapest have their sights set on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“There are a handful that are seriously taking a shot at Tokyo 2020,” said McKinnon. “Whether they will have an impact in terms of medals, maybe not, but Paris probably.”
The first FINA World Juniors were held in 2006. The competition is important for the development of both swimmers and coaches.
“We always have a staging camp,” said McKinnon. “For coaches to have that experience is really important.
“For the swimmers, by the time they get to the senior team, they know the ropes. We mirror the policies and behaviours of the senior team, so they’ve seen it all before.”
Canada won 15 medals at the 2017 edition of the world juniors, highlighted by a relay sweep by the women’s team and five World Junior records.