What does it take to be a youth Olympian? Just ask Kelsey Wog and Mackenzie Glover.
Next month, Wog and Glover will hit the swimming pool in Nanjing, China -- their Speedos sporting a Maple Leaf -- when they compete against the best young swimmers in the world at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Both young women from Vincent Massey Collegiate put together strong performances in Victoria at the Canadian Spring National Championships earlier this year to earn their spots on the four-woman Canadian team for their age group heading to the Games. Their performances also qualified them for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii, just four days after the end of the event in China.
Wog and Glover said the breakthrough is a culmination of a lot of hard work and their time spent with the University of Manitoba Bisons junior swimming program.
"I started swimming competitively when I was seven years old," said Wog, 15, who will be competing in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. "But my mom would take to me to swim lessons when I was like four months, she said, and I guess I loved it."
During the school year, Wog has swim practice every day after school and after that she heads to highland dance practice, which she uses as a sort of dryland conditioning program. It's also another activity she has competed in nationally. She said prior to her performance at the Canada Games last year she lacked confidence, but now realizes how good she can be.
"I wasn't quite confident with myself I could do it and then at Canada Games I got bronze in 200-metre breaststroke," she said. "It was never like a goal for me when I was younger to be an Olympian, but now it's realistic, it's a realistic goal now."
Craig McCormick, Wog's coach and the assistant coach of the Bisons swim team, has seen the great strides his student has made over the past few years.
"I'm always excited because I have no idea how fast she's actually going to go," said McCormick, who oversees the junior program. "Last summer she swam way beyond what we felt she was able to do because she had a great desire. She saw a carrot, as we call it, which was she believed she could get a medal at Canada Games, and she went out and got it.
"That gave her the confidence to come back and she really reevaluated her training."
For Glover, qualifying for the Youth Olympics was her goal coming into the year. She is currently at the senior nationals in Saskatoon with her coach Vlastimil Cerny, the Bisons head coach.
"I'm just looking forward to the whole experience," said Glover, 16, who will race in three backstroke events and two relays. "I think it will be really fun to go to China, see what it's like and meet new people."
Like Wog, Glover started swimming competitively when she was 7, and since then has put everything she has into the sport. She sets up her daily schedule at Vincent Massey so she has spare hours every morning, which allows her to practice from 7-10 a.m. every day during the week.
In the last the Youth Olympics four years ago in Singapore, Canadian women swimmers collected six of Canada's 12 medals. Both Wog and Glover competed at the Australian Swimming Championships in April and performed well, giving Glover podium aspirations.
"I think I can make a final, at least top eight," she said. "And hopefully I can get a medal. You never know."