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Sharpe wins national 50-metre backstroke

Dal swimmer aims for Olympics

Paula Sanderson, Staff Contributor

 

David Sharpe defended his 50-metre backstroke title for the second year in a row at the CIS national swimming championships in Calgary two weekends ago.

“There wasn’t anything super special about the race. There just weren’t any mistakes and that’s what you need to do in a 50,” said Sharpe. “I beat the guy behind me by .2 seconds. When you’re on your back and you’re three metres away from someone who is .2 seconds beside you, you don’t really know who is going to win.”

The 50-metre backstroke is a very fast and short race. With only two lengths of the pool, Sharpe won the race in 24.99 seconds. It was Sharpe’s personal best and an AUS record.

“I had a really good start and there’s not much you can think about in a 50—you just think go,” he said. “So I just went.”

With a great start, Sharpe went into the turn fast. “His turn was excellent which makes a big difference,” said David Fry, the Tigers’ coach. “He came out of the turn ahead of the field by a fairly significant margin, in 50-metre terms, probably about a shoulder-length above the others.”

By the 35-metre mark, Fry was confident that if Sharpe maintained his stroke rate he would win the race.  “As long as he held his form he would get it at the end,” said Fry. Sharpe did.

“He always does this thing where he gets in the pool a little bit later than everybody else. I don’t really know what he’s doing,” said Benison, “And he stays under the water for a really long time so you don’t want him to get DQed because he’s so good at it and he can go past 15-metre both ways. You’re just nervous, you’re just on your toes the whole time when he’s swimming.”

Sharpe also competed in three other individual CIS “A” finals. The other races were disappointing for him. “Last year I got four medals. This year I got one.”

“It’s tough to defend a national championship particularly when there are 30 or 40 guys out to beat you,” explained Fry.

After last year’s remarkable showing, Sharpe felt significant pressure going into the meet. “I think this year there were some unrealistic expectations because not very many men in the country can win four medals at CIS and David achieved that in his first year,” said Fry. “We are still proud of his achievement.”

Fry described Sharpe as an incredible athlete and student. “He knows what he needs to do. He’s a very intelligent young man and really analyzes his swimming closely,” said Fry. “He makes the most of his talent.”

Sharpe’s drive makes him an excellent swimmer, “He’s also tough on himself, which I think any good athlete is,” said Fry, “They expect a lot from themselves and consequently he’s usually a guy you can count on delivering in big situations.”

His teammates see him as a leader. “He doesn’t know it, but when he talks the whole team listens because it’s David Sharpe and he knows what he’s doing,” said teammate Terri-Lynn Benison. “He’s a really focused athlete. He knows what he wants and he’s going to go after it.”

Not only is Sharpe popular within his team, Benison said that other women at CIS were impressed with him.

“Other teams in the locker room, they were like, ‘Who’s David Sharpe? Why’s he so fast?’” said Benison. “It makes you feel good that he comes from your team.”

Sharpe’s results help the whole team. “It helps their confidence to know that their fellow athlete—who has done the same training—has been that successful,” said Fry.

Sharpe doesn’t pretend to be perfect. “I’m still learning how to be a leader too, I try to do my best and say the right thing at the right time,” said Sharpe. “I try my best, I don’t know if I’ll be an academic all-Canadian this semester.”

His experience makes him a leader on the team. “I may not be one of the older guys on the team but I have done a lot more racing in bigger situations,” said Sharpe, “I have a lot experience as far as national and international experience.”

This experience makes him comfortable at big events. “I think I’m more comfortable on a national stage,” said Sharpe. “Hopefully it can deflect some of the pressure off the other guys who aren’t.”

Sharpe has competed at the Nations Cup in Vancouver and at the World University Games in Serbia representing Canada. “When ever I’ve been in a really big situation I’ve preformed to the best of my ability,” Said Sharpe, “So that really gives me confidence for every step every time I take the next step I know I’m going to succeed.”

Sharpe is a backstroke and butterfly specialist.

Sharpe has competed at Olympic trials. He missed out on Beijing, but London 2012 is a goal. “The next thing for me would be to make a national “A” team, (and) make a world championship team or the Olympic team,” he said.

To make Olympic finals Sharpe must improve upon his Canadian ranking. At the end of last year he was ranked fifth in the country in the 200 meter fly. “If you come first you’re probably going to go.  If you come second there’s a chance you’ll go,” said Sharpe. “In a sense, I have to beat three or four people in the next year or so.

“I think I can do it, but I don’t think very many people would put their bets on me but that doesn’t bother me, I don’t care that’s what I want to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s probable or likely, its what you want.”

A big part of why Sharpe loves swimming is his team. “All my friends are on the team. If I wasn’t swimming I don’t know what I would be doing.”

“I’m really proud of our team. When someone is racing everyone gets behind each other,” said Benison, “It’s so great to see a team from Atlantic Canada that comes out with that much spirit and confidence that they can do well.”

As a team, the men’s team placed 6th overall and the women’s team placed 10th.

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