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Van Landeghem goes with the flow

Pool phenom unfazed by U.S. offers, world meets

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There never seems to be a dull day in the life of Manta Swim Club's Chantal Van Landeghem.

Since completing Grade 11 at Vincent Massey Collegiate this spring, Winnipeg's 17-year-old phenom has been besieged with American college scouts, who have been lined up at her door in an attempt to woo her and her aquatic talents to their particular hallowed halls of learning.

Not that she minds all the attention, but right now the most important thing on her mind is her first-ever World Senior Swimming Championships, set for Shanghai July 24-31. Currently, she's in Singapore for a two-week training camp, more to become acclimatized than anything else.

For Van Landeghem, who will be competing in the 100-metre freestyle on July 28, the 50-metre freestyle and the 4x100 freestyle relay on July 30, this will be her first world championship at the senior level, so most people would understand if she was apprehensive, but she isn't.

"I think it's mostly excitement," she said prior to leaving Saturday for Singapore. "I don't know, I just think it's going to be so much fun. I'm not too worried about the actual swimming part, because I've done it so much before, and when the time comes, I will be ready."

Van Landeghem qualified in early April at the World Swimming Trials in Victoria and is the only Manitoban on Team Canada. In the 100 free, she finished third in 55.15 and added silver in the 50 free in 25.43.

A couple of weekends ago, she swam at the Canada Cup in Montreal, where she won two bronze medals in the 100 free (55.47 seconds) and the 50 butterfly (27.13). Her current personal best time in the 50 free is 25.37 and in the 100 free it's 55.1.

Her Manta coach, Tom Hainey, said her times in Montreal were not to be construed as an indicator of how well she will do at the worlds. Hainey said that in Montreal, she hadn't had a lot of rest and she was using that competition mainly as a tune-up for the worlds.

In Montreal, she was swimming with the best senior swimmers in the world, but though excited, she said she wasn't overly intimidated.

"I've swam against these people before," she said, citing Berlin in October at the FINA World Cup, where she said she did well.

"I was swimming against world record-holders there. It was my first experience with senior international competition, but there were no expectations placed on me. It was simply go do your best, and see how well you can do."

She says she has pretty much the same attitude going into the worlds. "I think the atmosphere is going to be insane and amazing, and I'm looking forward to that."

Van Landeghem isn't discounting the pressure to produce, but says most of that is self-inflicted.

"As part of Team Canada, there is pressure to perform well and represent the country to the best of our ability. But for the most part, we put the pressure on ourselves to do well. That's not a bad thing as long as it is kept in perspective."

Van Landeghem won't have Hainey by her side in Shanghai, as Team Canada has its own team of coaches headed by Pierre Lafontaine. However, the Manta head coach will be joining her at the third FINA World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru, Aug. 16-21.

With all this time on the road, Van Landeghem's college suitors will just have to wait for her to make her decision, but she says there's no hurry.

"I've had a few (five or six)," she humbly admitted, adding that only two weeks ago there were two visiting her at her home on the same day.

"I'm still wide open right now, and no decisions have been made. I'm trying to keep my options open, so when a couple of coaches say they want to come down and talk, I say OK."

She lists California Berkeley, the current NCAA women's champions, as one of the top U.S., swimming colleges, along with Southern California and Georgia. "But Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto have some great training centres, and those are also options."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 15, 2011 C8

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