54th Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet kicks off new aquatic centre’s competitive career

The 54th edition of the Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet will officially break in the new UBC Aquatic Centre this coming weekend. The competition had previously been a part of the Canada Cup series which has featured races in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.  

Up until this year, Vancouver was the only city of the three to not have a new or updated facility. Back east, the Toronto Canada Cup uses the 2015 Pan-Am Games pool and the Montreal event is run out of the extensively renovated 1976 Olympic pool.

To put it in perspective, the old UBC Aquatic Centre was an uneven octagonal facility with a poor ventilation system. The new centre features 50 metre, 10-lane competition pool certified by swimming’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), a 25 metre, 10-lane warm down pool and a state of the art ventilation system which keeps the air quality high at all times.

In the past, the Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet has been a showcase for some of the world’s top swimming talent. The 2013 edition of the competition was headlined by world-record holder, multi-Olympic medalist and Rio bad boy Ryan Lochte. Similarly, the Montreal Canada Cup used to be a main stop for Michael Phelps until it was moved outdoors due to renovations at the Olympic pool.

This year, the meet will be headlined by many ’Birds including Olympians Markus Thormeyer, Yuri “The Missile” Kisil, Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson and senior UBC swim team members Carson Olafson and Stefan Milosevic.

Canadian Olympic medalist Hilary Caldwell and Pan American Games breaststroker Richard Funk will also be present alongside members of both the American junior national team and the Canadian junior national team.

University of Denver and Croatian national team swimmer Anton Loncar will be one to watch as he also takes to the ’Birds new lanes, going in ranked first overall in the men’s 200 metre backstroke ahead of UBC’s Thormeyer.

All things considered, this year’s edition of the Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet will act as a showcase meet for much of UBC’s talent and a warm up meet for the upcoming 2017 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary in mid-July.

The meet will run for three days, beginning on Friday morning and ending on Sunday evening. Preliminaries for most events will be swum in the morning heats with finals and relays taking place at night. Cash prizes will be given to individual event winners and/or meet record swims. There will also be a $100 Speedo Canada prize for the swim of the day.

There is no charge for seating in the spectator areas but it will work on a first come-first serve basis. 

An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that the Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet is currently a part of the Canada Cup, and has been updated. The Ubyssey regrets this error.