Siwon Jengsuksavat ’23 and Ilia Mehr Bakhsh ’22
Contributor and Deputy Editor
Born in Regina and raised in Winnipeg, Kelsey Wog is a member of the Canadian Olympic Swimming Team. Kelsey’s experiences as a young Olympian may be beneficial to St. Paul’s athletes who wish to dedicate their time and efforts to a specific sport. We were fortunate enough to secure an interview with Wog and asked her about her journey as a swimmer, her time in Tokyo, and her future goals.
Wog began swimming as a baby, and as she grew older, she was encouraged to engage in competitive swimming. The Bisons became her swim team from elementary to high school.
Kelsey’s dedication to long hours of swimming, dance, and school required excellent time management and efficiency. These were driven by her dedication to achieve success in all fields of her academic and athletic life.
She continued swimming into her university years, joining the varsity team at the University of Manitoba in 2016.
Wog’s competitive swimming includes her personal best in the women’s 200-metre breaststroke in 2:17.13 and women’s 100-metre breaststroke in 1:06.44. This is impressive, knowing that women’s qualifying standards for the Olympics are 2:25.00 and 1:07.10 respectively.
To qualify for the Olympics, swimmers must rank in the top two in their qualification events while being under the standard Olympic qualifying time.
We asked Wog what it felt like to be one of the few athletes that could accomplish this rare goal. “It was a weird feeling,” Wog began. “It wasn’t a normal trial and there were not many people in the stands. Yet when I made it, I was exhilarated and excited.” The pandemic, however, radically affected her swimming and training schedule.
Despite this, Wog recognized that the sacrifice was necessary: “I tried to keep things in perspective when it [the COVID-19 pandemic] happened. I thought of the bigger picture of why we were locked down and knew that it was for the good of everybody else. I had to think about what I really wanted in swimming and, honestly, COVID-19 really made me appreciate that I really love the sport, especially after it was taken away from me.”
With all planning taken care of by Team Canada, Wog and her teammates flew to Tokyo after two weeks of training in Vancouver. “It was hard to know that we were really in Tokyo as we were sent to our village right away,” she said, retelling her due to the pandemic. Yet she still loved her experience: “There were so many buildings in the athlete village, you could see all the flags, and the dining hall was fantastic. There was food from all over the world and you could try a little bit of everything. It was open 24/7 so you could eat at two A.M. if you were hungry.” Trying to spot famous athletes in the village, Wog noticed that she was surrounded by buildings representing all European countries, with Britain across from Canada’s dormitories.
In one’s pursuit of anything, good experiences are paired with difficulties. Wog, like many other athletes, has had her fair share of difficulties but fought through them as an expert. “I always believe that the comeback is better than the setback. I am able to learn from and apply what I learned from unsavoury moments in future experiences. You have to stay persistent and keep believing that the best is still yet to come.”
At an exceptionally elite level of swimming, Wog is training hard, committing countless hours to her sport. Persistency, struggle, and optimism are three of the techniques she used to fight through her time as an athlete. “I have been working on that a lot this year. I always set an intention before practice, just small things like, ‘Okay, today I am going to have really great streamlines.’ I just set something little that I want to work on every day, and honestly, it gets easier and easier.”
Wog made it clear that pursuit in anything requires attention and a strong will for improvement. She continued to address youth from a successful athlete’s perspective. “Try as many sports as you can and find something that you have a passion for, something that really speaks for you. Do not get discouraged by setbacks or struggles because the comeback will always be greater than the setback. I hope to inspire the next generation. I hope that other people are inspired to start a sport like swimming, even from watching me or other Team Canada athletes as well.”
Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson