White Rock swimmer – and Canadian Olympian – Hilary Caldwell is competing this month at Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. (Swimming Canada file photo)

White Rock’s Caldwell aims for podium at Commonwealth Games

White Rock Olympian may retire from competition this year

For White Rock swimmer Hilary Caldwell, the Commonwealth Games – which opened Wednesday in Gold Coast, Australia – could very well be her last hurrah as a competitive swimmer.

The Olympic bronze medallist – who finished third in the 200-m backstroke at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro – made that proclamation in a Swimming Canada news release issued late last month.

“It’s very unlikely I’ll swim until 2020 (Summer Olympics),” Caldwell said. “I would say it’s unlikely I’ll swim past April.

“I’m still taking it meet by meet, so I’ll see how things go at the Commonwealth Games. However, with (the Pan Pacific Championships) in Tokyo in the summer, one of my favourite cities, I’m not ruling anything out.”

Caldwell, who grew up swimming on the Semiahmoo Peninsula with the Pacific Sea Wolves club, has lived and trained in recent years in Victoria alongside a handful of other Canadian Olympians. Just after Christmas, however, she decided to shake things up and moved to Australia, where she’s been training at Griffith University under Michael Bohl, who has coached a handful of Olympic swimmers.

Caldwell made the move because she needed a change in scenery.

“I came down here because my training group at home consisted mainly of kids 10-plus years younger than me,” Caldwell explained. “The staff (in Victoria) was really supportive of me coming down here.”

Down Under, Caldwell has trained with a Olympic-level athletes from Australia, as well as Korea and Japan.

“It’s a great, world-class training environment,” she said.

At Commonwealth Games, Caldwell will swim the 200-m backstroke, the same event in which she won her Olympic medal. Last summer, she also competed in the same event at FINA World Championships in Budapest, but finished sixth.

“My results last summer were quite frustrating,” said Caldwell.

“I’d had a great year of training and still didn’t manage a (personal best) at worlds. The event has moved forward a lot. Some great young girls are coming up, but for me it definitely wasn’t the performance I was after.”

The women’s 200 back event is to be held Sunday, and will have a strong field at Commonwealth Games.

Canadian Taylor Ruck is fastest in the world this year after her time of 2:06.36 at the Pro Swim Series in Atlanta, with Kylie Masse No. 2 at 2:07.47. Kaylee McKeown, 16, is fourth after out-touching her defending world champion Emily Seebohm by 0.01 at Australian trials.

“Women’s backstroke has a ton of strength in Commonwealth countries,” said Caldwell.

“We have some phenomenal Canadian backstrokers and the Aussies are always great in backstroke, the Brits as well. I anticipate a very world class race in the backstrokes.”

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