Former Kenora swimmer makes Paralympic history
By DALE WOODARD -- Kenora Daily Miner & News
Janet Hyslop is Sydney-bound. She's headed for the 2000 Paralympics
in Austrailia after being appointed to the coaching staff of the Canadian
Paralympic Swim Team.
Hyslop, a former competitive swimmer who grew up in Kenora and currently is
head coach of the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts, is the first female coach to be
named to the Canadian Paralympic team coaching staff.
This also marks the second time Hyslop has placed an athlete on the
Paralympic team. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she placed Benny Galati on
the Canadian Paralympic team, but wasn't on hand for the Games.
But this time, Hyslop is on board too, heading down under having placed
16-year-old swimmer Andrea Cole on the Canadian swimming roster.
"I'm very excited about this, it's quite an hounour," Hyslop said.
The Paralympics are held two weeks after the Olympics wrap-up, Hyslop said.
The opening ceremonies are Oct. 15 with the swimming beginning five days
Cole is a swimmer who suffers from cerebral palsy and is classified as an
"In the sport of swimming for swimmers with disability, they are classified
into different categories based on their disability," Hyslop said, adding the
most disabled is an S-1, the least S-10.
"You would look at somebody with severe cerebral palsy who needs a floating
device as S-1 and maybe a partial-float amputee as an S-10," Hyslop explained.
Cole will be swimming in a wide range of events, Hyslop said. "She'll be
swimming in the 200m individual medley, 100m fly, 400m freestyle, 100m
freestyle, 50m freestyle, 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke. That's pretty
exceptional," she said, adding Cole qualified for those events at the same
time as the Olympic trials at the end of May in Montreal.
"Her best events will be the 400m freestyle, the 100m fly and the 200m
individual medley," Hyslop said.
Cole has placed fourth in the world in the 400m freestyle and in the top
eight in the 100m fly and the 200m individual medley.
"The goal would have to be the top three, in the medal position," Hyslop
said. "But she's in amongst other very talented athletes that make up the
Canadian paralympic team. So it's our goal to go into the competition and end
up being number one in the world."
The Canadian paralympic swim team is made up of 24 athletes, Hyslop said.
"I'm feeling a lot of pride in not only the fact that I'm the first female
coach, but I get to work with some amazing athletes and also an incredibly
talented and dedicated coaching staff that makes up the rest of the team,"
The paralympic team coaching staff consists of a high performance coach,
Andrew Craven of London, Ont., who acts as the head coach for the preparation
and lead-up into Sydney. "He's kind of the spearhead. Then there's five more
coaches including myself."
While she placed Cole on the swim team, Hyslop is also responsible for
another trio of athletes.
"I have four athletes from all different corners of Canada," she said.
The other three athletes are Donovan Tisdell, a blind athlete from
Vancouver, Jessica Sloan from Calgary and Benoit Huot of Quebec.
"It's a very broad disability base, from blind (Tisdell) to cerebral palsy
(Cole) to mild cerebral palsy (Huot) and somebody with a loss of part of her
hand (Sloan). She was born with a birth defect," Hyslop said of Sloan. "She's
amazing. Jessica is a world record holder in the 100m breast stroke."
The coaches responsibilities for their respective athletes span further
than just in the pool. "We're responsible for all their preparation going into
Sydney," she said.
The team leaves Sept. 29 and for the two weeks leading up to the Games will
hold a training camp, or staging, as Hyslop calls it, in Cairns, Australia.
"We have the final preparation stage where we take the athletes through
their taper period, which is their rest period," she said. "At that point, our
job as a coach is to keep them on track mentally. The physical part at that
point is going to be the easy part, we think. It'll be the mental part, the
distractions, the nervousness, that sort of stuff."
Once the team gets to the athletes village Oct. 12, the next role for
coaches is to take the athletes through their classification period. It's
possibly the most stressful part of the whole trip for the athlete if they've
never been through a classification at the international level, Hyslop said.
"Each athlete has to be classified into their specific category, an S-6 or
an S-8 (for example)," she said. "It's almost a testing process where you have
a medical classifier and a technical classifier that work as a team."
The classifiers take the athlete through a number of different tests and
decide what S-class the athlete belongs in based on the competitor's points
Able bodied athletes never have to experience this process, Hyslop said,
but it's a step the paralympian must take before competing.
"For swimmers with a disability, they could go into the meet as an S-8 and
be bumped up to an S-9 category, which is a far more competitive and faster
category," Hyslop said.
At that point the coach's role involves either a protest, making sure the
classification goes through the way it should go through and watching for
other athletes that they feel have been misclassified and challenging those as
"It's a very technical game at that point and that's where the coaches
really come into play," Hyslop said.
The paralympics are broken down into each of the sports, so the swimming
component falls under the head of Swimming Canada, Hyslop said, and it runs in
parallel fashion to the preparation and organization of the Olympic team.
"That's really exceptional for a sport with a disability," Hyslop said.
"The funding is parallel. The fact they've invested the money to send the
number of coaching and athletes they're sending is a first for the paralympic
swimmers, so it's really exciting. They're sending us there to do a job and
the job is to be the best in the world."
This will no doubt be a memorable trip for everyone involved.
"I keep thinking to myself that I'm in control and I'll be able to handle
the environment," Hyslop said. "But I think I'm going to be just as
overwhelmed as some of the newer athletes."
But she said she's lucky to be on an experienced coaching staff.
"I know my skills and reasons I was selected and I'll just have to focus on
those strengths and for the most part I'm excited, looking forward to being in
Australia - I've never been there before - and also just wanting to soak up as
much of the experience as I possibly can and have the athletes swim well."