The Bulkley Valley Otters Swim Club are making waves as two of their top competitors continue to rank among some of the best in the West.
Recently the BV Otters came off some outstanding wins at the Western Nationals in Winnipeg last month. Most notably Brian Dohler and Brett Zollen, who have been coming up through the ranks for a number of years and are now heading into the next stage of their swimming careers.
“We train hard and we train a lot,” said Dohler. “I’m here at the pool nine times a week. We’ve been swimming for some long and so well that it’s very second nature, it’s a habit to come to the pool everyday and swim five k.”
Although Dohler has been swimming his whole life, now at the age of 17, the toughest competition is right around the corner. A powerful long-distance swimmer, Dohler is seeking not only qualification for the Olympic but also to be noticed by University varsity teams that could set him on the track to capture Olympic gold in four years.
“I plan on swimming for either the University of Victoria or the University of Waterloo,” he said. “So I hope to place well at CIS (Canadian Inter-university Sport) over the next couple of years, and qualify for the Olympic trial, those are the goals for the next few years.”
Zollen is in the same boat. With a much different style than Dohler, Zollen is pushing for the same goal, the Olympics and with schools on both sides of the boarder looking for the next best athlete he knows that at this point they can’t let up one bit and training is top priority.
“The season has been good, I’ve been keeping up with national times, trying to get myself noticed by Universities pretty much has been the goal of the year to get noticed,” Zollen told the Interior News.
“Part of it is you can’t go out every Friday night with your buddies, you have to really stay focused. You can’t get distracted with all the other stuff that school brings so you have to be really dedicated to your sport or else you’re not going to achieve what you want to.”
With their sights on achieving greatness within their sport Zollen and Dohler are roll models for younger athletes who share their dream of reaching the Olympic podium and take solid lessons from their older teammates.
“They [Dohler and Zollen] encourage us a lot,” Teammate Tanner Esperson said. “Giving out pointers and stuff to the younger kids, making swimming fun.”
Esperson who has also been swimming his whole life sees how dedication pays off and has collected a couple of top finishes himself this season.
“Right now I’m only four-seconds off my age group national times for the 1,500 metre freestyle,” he said. “So just try to get that in the short-term. In the long-term I’ll be trying to get to Western Nationals. So I’ll just keep training hard.”
In July some of the Otters will be heading to Provincials in Richmond and then on to Nationals in Calgary, and by staying focused Zollen believes they will have a good showing and clinch wins that are sure to get noticed, a season goal for both of the elite swimmers.
“Me and Brian are in the top 20 always, so we’re always in the mix,” Zollen said. “At provincials we hope to be in the top five so we’re a force to be reckoned with that’s for sure.”
However, the team is only as strong as their leaders and in this case that means a dedicated coaching staff as well. Over the past few years the Otters have had their fair share of coaches come through the door, until now. The recent addition of the Otters head coach Saskia Terporten, who began her time with the team in October of last year reaffirms her dedication to the team. With strong competitors throughout all ranks of the BV Otters, Terporten feels the solid foundation that has been laid down by assistant coaches Ali Howard and Tom Esperson is what will help those athletes achieve their goals of one day being Olympic champions.
“They’ve been doing very well so far this year,” she said. “As a coach it was a very busy year. I think from the start the kids have surprised themselves a lot from where the finished last year. They have a very strong foundation and part of that is from Tom having been with the club for ten years, giving them the skills to be able to reach the next level of competitive swimming.”