It has been almost two years since Dalhousie University swimmer Christian Payne last competed at the U Sports championship. He has won multiple Atlantic University Sport (AUS) honours in his time with the Tigers swimming team and, in the 2019-2020 season, went to the U Sports championships to chase a national medal.
Unfortunately, in his first race, he didn’t qualify for the national 50-metre backstroke A Final. His next swim in the B Final, which he won convincingly, was so good that he would have medalled had he raced in the A Final.
Both U Sports and AUS championships were cancelled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2019-2020 was the last time Payne had the opportunity to compete at nationals. He said this season, despite the most recent restrictions, has been great. “Everyone’s been swimming really fast and it’s exciting.”
Regarding those restrictions, he said they make training harder due to the rescheduling and changes in practice to fit the public health guidelines.
“We’ve been able to get back in the water to train, which is the most important,” Payne said.
Emerging from the pause
Due to the pandemic, the team was forced to stop their training altogether for periods of time last year, which he said was “difficult when trying to stay in shape to be able to swim fast.”
Their usual training consists of around over twenty hours each week, with most swimmers training up to nine times a week, with almost two hours of swimming practice per session. That’s on top of two to three weight training sessions every week. The team also has to keep up with their classes and assignments on top of all their training.
“Time management is the only thing that can get you through it,” Payne said.
Most of the team has developed time management skills through all the time they’ve been training, and Payne is no exception. His parents were both competitive swimmers and so, as expected, he started his swimming career at a young age. He learned how to swim at six years old and the sport has been an important component of his life since. His older brother, Morrgan, also had a strong swimming career and was on the Tigers swimming team when Payne first joined Dal.
“My choices were between Acadia and Dalhousie, I chose Dal because I was familiar with the team,” he said.
This season shows a lot of promise into becoming one of his, and Dal’s, best yet. The men’s swimming team had won the AUS Championship 21 consecutive times until 2019-2020, when the Acadia University Axemen captured the conference crown.
Now, as competitions are returning closer to normal, Dal hopes to reclaim its spot as the top team in the AUS and it looks like they have a solid chance of doing so. Both the men’s and women’s swimming teams have dominated in invitational meets in fall 2021, with Payne racking up several individual event wins. Dal will host the AUS championships in March
“[We have] performed really well so far,” he said. “We expect that we will bring that banner back this year.”
Payne has already qualified for this year’s U Sports meet in Quebec City, Que. He said getting another shot at a national medal will be huge after a long period away from competition.
“I am one of those people who looks for the big picture and am looking forward to the really high competitions where I can perform my best and see how fast I can swim,” he said. “There are some really good swimmers competing at U Sports for Dal. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them could get medals.”