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Guelph teen is mowing down para swim records

Jordan Tucker has her sights set on the 2024 Paralympics in France

Jordan Tucker likes to laugh. She likes to pump her left fist, too. And she likes to swim.

The Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club swimmer has been doing a lot of all three this year, especially when she’s breaking national swimming records, something she’s done a few times in the last year.

Competing in the para S5 class, the 17-year-old’s first record-breaking performance came in her class’s 50-metre butterfly at the Western Canadian Championships in Edmonton in April when she shaved 3/10ths of a second off the previous record set in 2002, lowering it to one minute, 6.76 seconds.

“I almost blacked out,” Tucker said of her reaction to the record. “My coach Kendra (Papple), it was in Edmonton and I’d just finished my event and she was like ‘Oh, do you know you just broke a Canadian record?’ and I was like ‘What?’ I was tired, so tired, but I’m like ‘Wow!’ And my mom and my aunt were crying and I though ‘Ah, that’s sad.’

Of course they were tears of joy.

“They were happy, but I didn’t know until later,” Tucker said. “I had to process it.”

Now that first record time probably seems slow to Tucker as she has obliterated it. She chopped five seconds off it at the Marlins’ own Splash and Dash meet in May and then took another second off it at the Western Region Long Course Championships in Edmonton in June. It’s now at 1:00.77.

The day after beating the 50m fly mark at the Splash and Dash meet, Tucker took 51 seconds off the 100m fly record set three years ago. She has that record to 2:12.76.

A Grade 12 student at College Heights Secondary School, Tucker suffered a stroke when she was 2 and it left her paralyzed on her right side. As for the class designation, S5 in Tucker’s case, the less mobility the athlete has, the lower the number.

The records have come quick for Tucker as the graduate of the Guelph Marlins Para Learn to Swim program has been swimming competitively for three years.

“My mom’s friend from her work, Kids Ability, she introduced me to the Marlins,” Tucker said. “I think I grew up in the water because when I was small I would ask my mother to let go and I’d sink to the bottom, but I wanted her to let go. I’ve always loved the water.”

She also tried taking swimming lessons when she was younger, but they didn’t work out too well.

“When I was smaller, I used to take swimming lessons, but the instructors didn’t know how to teach somebody like me,” Tucker said. “I was a bit bigger when they introduced me to the Marlins and they (let me learn) at my own pace. I know what I can and can’t do.”

After taking the lessons from the Marlins, Tucker got the itch to compete.

“It was the urge to beat somebody,” she said. “I got that feeling in my head and it was ‘I’m going to beat someone today.’”

While she does all the strokes, not surprisingly the butterfly is Tucker’s favourite.

“It’s the hardest stroke,” she said.

Tucker’s in the pool, either the Victor Davis Pool at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre or the University of Guelph pool, five times a week with each workout being a two-hour session. And some of those sessions start at 5:30 a.m.

“I have to set up my phone so I can get up an hour earlier, but I can’t sleep because I’m so excited to get in because I love the water,” she said.

And she has to go to school after those early-morning workouts.

“I almost fell asleep in my art class,” she said. “It was fun.”

She also attends a para camp at the Pan-Am Centre at Markham on Fridays. There she gets feedback from Paralympic swimmers.

The Marlins have their annual Dash for Cash meet coming up in December, but Tucker isn’t likely to compete at that meet due to other competitive swimming commitments. She’s to race in a national event and that will give her the chance to race against others in her classification. Something that’s not likely to happen at the meet in Guelph.

“This is a really good plan for me because I get to race my class,” she said. “I’m an S5 and I usually race an S6 or whatever, but in Nationals I’ll only race my classification.”

She’s hoping to be doing a lot more fist pumping at that meet as she feels it’s the type of meet that usually leads to her good performances.

Tucker also hopes to be competing in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

“I have to train a lot.”

That training probably won’t be too big a challenge for Tucker as she’ll be in the pool.

“I love it. I just love it. I like meeting all the coaches and making new friends and seeing how they swim,” she said of swimming in general. “I love that.”