The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) Grand Forks team will be closely monitoring the progress of former colleague James Dergousoff, and cheering for him, when the promising breaststroker competes for Canada at his first FINA World Swim Championships in Budapest this coming Saturday, June 18.
25-yea-old James, whose hometown is Christina Lake, now lives in Quebec City but has a deep connection with the pool at the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre as well as the people who use it and run it.
“As a toddler, I would take him to the aquatics centre to burn off all that excess energy. He was diving off the deep end before his 3rd birthday and had enrolled himself in the local Piranhas speed swim club by Kindergarten,” says mom Theresa whose family still use their place at Christina Lake despite having to leave the Boundary area in James’ teenage years due to work.
In the years since, the former RDKB fitness instructor and lifeguard has also used the vast expanse of water at Christina Lake, as well as his ‘local’ pool at Grand Forks, for training. During the pandemic (May 2020), when public pools across the world closed, James moved back to the lake, bought a wetsuit and swam there to continue his preparations for that year’s Olympic trials.
The Pan American Games medallist won the 100m and 200m Breaststroke races at the 2022 Bell Canadian Swimming Trials to qualify for next week’s FINA event. That performance also opened the lane for James to represent Canada during the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (UK) later this summer (28th July – 8 Aug).
“We all know James very well and are super excited for his return to competitive swimming. He’s a fantastic role model for our young people here, very driven, and we’ll be cheering him on from Grand Forks Rec as he makes one more push to fulfill his dream of representing Canada at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. What an opportunity!” says Melina Van Hoogevest, recreation supervisor at RDKB’s Grand Forks recreation department. As well as having the opportunity to work with James at the Aquatic Centre for a six-month stint (October 21 – March 22), she also knew James as a boy growing up.
“Whatever the outcome this summer, James is one of our community’s greatest swim athletes, the finest young man ever and with his amazing positive attitude and outlook on life was an awesome part of our team at the Aquatic Centre. We’re currently making plans to create a giant mural of him in action so that he can continue to inspire others with what he has accomplished,” adds Melina.
Local mural artist Archer, who has helped transform Grand Forks with his incredible artwork, has been commissioned to paint an image of James swimming on the north end interior wall of the Aquatic Centre after the RDKB match-funded the sponsorship received from local supporter, Dr. Mark Szynkaruk.
You can track James’ progress in the 100m and 200m Breaststroke heats at the FINA World Swim Championships when they kick off on Saturday, June 18 and Wednesday, June 22. The event will be streamed live daily on the CBC Sports app, CBCSports.ca and CBC Gem, plus weekend coverage on the CBC TV network, beginning at 1 pm PST both Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19.
“James has swam under a minute in the 100 Fly, the 100 Back and the 100 Free. His current best time in the 100 Breast is 1.00:88. If he goes under a minute, he will be one of a handful of swimmers in the world that have ever gone under a minute in all four disciplines – not even Michael Phelps has done that. So, while there are much faster swimmers in the competition, we’re watching very closely and hoping for that 59 second swim!” adds Theresa Dergousoff.