Making a splash Winnipeg’s Mia West was born to swim
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You might say Mia West was born to swim.
As a toddler, she crawled around the gutters at the Etobicoke Olympium pool while her parents Bo and Riley — two former elite swimmers who met at Arizona State University — worked as coaches.
Soon after, the family relocated to Winnipeg — Riley’s (nee Mants) hometown — and it wouldn’t take Mia long to start making a splash of her own in the pool.
Mia, now 15, was named Sport Manitoba’s 2021 Junior Athlete of the Year last week.
“I felt really honoured, honestly, because I’ve never won an award against athletes from other sports,” Mia told the Free Press this week.
“I felt really honoured, honestly, because I’ve never won an award against athletes from other sports.” – Mia West
But if she continues at her rapid progression, it might not be the last time the pool star picks up a piece of hardware over other top athletes.
She’s coming off an incredible 2021-22 season where she won seven gold medals and a silver at the 2021 Prairie Winter International (in Winnipeg in early December), three golds and a bronze at the Danish Junior Championships last July (her father, Bo, hails from Denmark), and three silvers and two bronze at the Ontario Junior International (also in December.
Along the way, the member of the Manta Swim Club set eight new provincial records in the 15-17 age category and four senior records.
Bo said it was particularly special seeing his daughter find success in the country of his origin.
“I went with her the first time she went and it was super nice to be back. A lot of my old friends and teammates and competitors are now coaching and have kids of their own,” Bo said.
“It was a super proud moment and they were super excited to have her.”
Mia’s accomplishments came in spite of a training regimen greatly disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Good thing grandma’s outdoor swimming pool was available.
“That pool was built when I was two years old so it’s a 40-year-old pool,” said her mother, .Riley, who also swim for Manta.
“We turned (it) into a little training facility where we made lane lines out of rope and pool noodles …we had a diving board in the lane so it was kind of like a starting block. We put electrical tape at the bottom of the pool so you could see where you’re going and an X on the wall so you didn’t crash into it. It was months of training in that pool.”
With Mia’s dedication and work ethic, there’s optimism she can reach similar heights as her folks, who were both four-year All-Americans during their time at ASU. Bo competed for the Danish national team at several major European events, and Riley swam for Canada at the 1996 Olympics. At one time, she was also the Masters world-record holder in the 50-metre and 200-metre breaststroke events.
Those are some big goggles to fill.
“I really appreciate them. They do a lot for me in swimming. They’ve really helped me a lot and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be here,” said Mia, a Grade 10 student at Oak Park High School.
“I really appreciate them (Bo and Riley). They do a lot for me in swimming. They’ve really helped me a lot and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be here.” – Mia West
“At the same time, it’s a lot sometimes. We talk about swimming all the time, pretty much. But I’ve told them how I feel. I want them to just focus on the parenting side of things and let my coach do the coaching.”
They’re not the only ones at the dining table talking about swimming, as Mia’s younger siblings, Halle, 13, and Ronan, 9, are also deep into the sport.
“I think seeing each others’ accomplishments, it really feeds on us and we just keep pushing and making each other better. We really push each other to do our best. Seeing her accomplish something like that, I’m so proud of her,” said Mia, about her younger sister. “I think that’s awesome. But I want to do things, too. It makes me work harder.”
While one of her goals is to follow in her parents’ footsteps and compete for a NCAA Division 1 school, a university athlete from these parts has been a major inspiration.
Former University of Manitoba star Kelsey Wog, 23, who wrapped up her university career this season, holds five U Sports records and swam for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mia will get her first taste of wearing the Maple Leaf this August as a member of the junior national team at the Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii.
“Kelsey is a huge inspiration to me. We’ve been talking for a couple years now and she’s always been super nice to me and super inspiring,” Mia said. “Just having somebody else that’s so good at the sport is really fun. We actually go to yoga together sometimes. It’s really nice to see her everywhere and have her cheer me on.”
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