Rachel Nicol, Apollo Hess and Chris Alexander have had the University of Lethbridge pool to themselves for much of February.
The three are among an elite group that Swim Alberta sought an exemption for as they prepare for Swimming Canada’s upcoming Olympic trials.
“They went through the process with the provincial government and with AHS,” said coach Peter Schori.
“And the university was a huge part of the process. They had to co-operate as a facility and be willing to open for the exemption group.”
The trio has been in the pool now since Feb. 8, and is working hard towards a common goal, despite being at different stages in their careers.
For Nicol, the opportunity to compete for a spot at her second Olympic Games will come more than a year later than expected.
“It’s not going to be the same excitement, it’s going to be very kind of sterile and hospitalized almost, in terms of being safe and everything. I’m very curious to see what it will be like.
“This will be my fourth Olympic trials, so I’ll be able to compare and contrast,” Nicol said with a laugh.
Athletes in other provinces have had access to pools more consistently than those in Alberta, but the 28-year-old says her focus has been firmly on only worrying about what she can control and tuning out the rest.
“There’s nothing else more that I could possibly do to prepare for it, so I’m feeling confident in that,” Nicol said. “Has this year been ideal? No. Do I know how fast I’m going to go or how confident I am that I’m going to make the team? I’m not really sure.”
Nicol spent January swimming in Texas before returning to Lethbridge.
“Even though it’s a small group, we’re all focused towards the same goal, so it’s really nice and cohesive and we feel kind of special because we’re here on our own, so it’s kind of fun,” she said.
Preparing for trials has also been uniquely stressful for U of L Pronghorns freshman Hess, who says while time out of the pool was a nice reset, it was also difficult to stay on track.
“As an athlete you kind of set goals for yourself and try to work towards them, and most of our goals come in the form of swim meets or certain championship meets,” Hess said.
The 18-year-old is set to compete in his first Olympic trials, and coach Schori says having Nicol’s experience at the pool has been invaluable for the two younger swimmers.
“She can give them guidance as an athlete that I can’t give them as a coach,” Schori said.
Trials are set to run from May 24-28 in Toronto.