Jaren LeFranc was “wide-eyed” initially competing in the sixth Fina World Junior Championships in Indianapolis, Aug. 23 to 28.
He was competing amongst the best 18 and under swimmers in the world, which included Canadian Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals in one Summer Olympic Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champ.
“The experience was pretty amazing,” said LeFranc, a Penticton Secondary School graduate who now lives in Vancouver as he attends UBC and swims for the Thunderbirds varsity team. “Coming from a small town and seeing basically the world, that’s my first time kind of being exposed to that kind of stuff. When it came down to it, I felt pretty humbled to have that experience.”
|Jaren LeFranc entered the 200-metre breast stroke ranked 21st and finished 16th in the 2017 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Indianapolis.
Courtesy Swimming Canada/Scott Grant
LeFranc competed in the 50- and 100-metre breaststroke as well as the 200-m breaststroke. He placed 20th out of 71 in the 100-m breast stroke in one minute 2.92 seconds, 2.01 seconds behind Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi, who went on to win gold. In the 50-m event he clocked 29.20, 1.99 seconds behind Martinenghi, who won that event as well. Both times were personal bests. In the 200 breast stroke, LeFranc clocked 2:17.12, 5.4 seconds behind U.S. swimmer Daniel Roy, who won gold. LeFranc’s time was 8/100 of a second slower than his best, which KISU coach Tina Hoeben, part of the Canadian coaching staff, said helped him increase his ranking from 21st to 16th among 54 swimmers.
“He did a great job,” said Hoeben.
“I would have liked to have been a bit faster in a few races,” said LeFranc. “When it came down to it, it was the experience for me that is what I’m going to remember. The team atmosphere and all the other swims.”
LeFranc said it was a very fast, competitive meet.
“I think the times was what I was expecting. To actually see it happen, is a whole other ball park,” said Hoeben. “We knew people were going to swim that fast, but to actually see it, it is crazy fast.”
Canada’s team won 15 medals, including seven gold which is most for the team and they ranked second in the medal count behind the U.S. which finished with 32. Oleksiak collected five gold’s for Canada.
LeFranc learned how to manage himself in stressful situations and he believes it was important to have the experience. He learned from watching Oleksiak what it takes to go from the senior level to an Olympic gold medallist.
He knows he performed his best and now wants to move towards where he wants to be in the next three or four years — which is competing at his highest level, and perhaps even making the Olympic team.
“I really want this to be the stepping point,” said LeFranc. “Just having the privilege to represent Canada was something that I have been working all year for. I was proud that I was there and that I worked for it. It was definitely an amazing experience for me to reap the rewards.”
He is excited about his next chapter with the Thunderbirds, a program he said has such a legacy of excellence, including helping athletes reach the national team and Olympics. The Thunderbirds had eight current, former and future athletes in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“That is super inspiring coming off of World Juniors. Maybe this is what I need to get to the next level.”