Winnipegger Kelsey Wog swims way to 2nd Olympics appearance

Winnipegger Kelsey Wog admits the sun is setting on her swimming career, but there’s plenty of daylight left as she gears up for her second Olympics later this summer.  

The 25-year-old booked her ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games by finishing second in the women’s 200-metre breaststroke final at Canada’s recent Olympic and Paralympic swim trails in Toronto. She finished with a time of 2:23.80, just 100th of a second back of event winner Sydney Pickrem.

“I don’t think I ever dreamed that I’d be able to call myself a two-time Olympian, let alone a one-time Olympian,” said Wog. “I’m just really grateful that I was able to hold on for two Olympic cycles and I’m just really looking forward to representing Team Canada.”

Her recent success, aside from the swim trials, includes a silver medal in the 200-metre breaststroke event at the 2023 Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile.

GOLD AND SILVER MEDALS: Sydney Pickrem and Kelsey Wog of Canada claim more Pan Am Games medals in the pool

7 months ago

Duration 6:20

Wog said she’s looking forward to a totally different atmosphere in Paris compared to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m really excited to kind of experience the whole Olympic experience again, this time in a little bit of a different way with people in the stands and being able to go watch other athletes and kind of be a little bit more in the experience than it was last time,” she said.

Wog’s coach Vlastik Cerny also said he hopes she’ll be able to have a bit more fun this time around.

“I don’t think she enjoyed the moment last time around and so that is our goal and through that I’m really looking forward to her being able to perform the way she can,” he said. 

“Of course there’s going to be stress — everybody’s going to have pressure — because the Olympics come only once every four years. You train a long long time for it and you want to be at your best.”

And that includes the cerebral part of being an athlete, not just the performance, said Cerny, who’s no stranger to the Olympics himself, having participated once as an athlete and now entering his fifth as a coach. 

“It’s every day, and every day is not fantastic but you want to just quickly let go of a practice that maybe didn’t go as well as you wanted and it’s always about the next one. What was the lesson and what’s the next one,” he said. 

He said Wog has worked hard since the Tokyo games, where she didn’t make past the preliminary round in the 100-metre breaststroke and was also disqualified in semi-finals of the 200-metre breaststroke for using a dolphin kick.

“It was challenging, [the] last three years after the pandemic Olympics,” he said. “But she … loves the sport and she persevered and got the job done when it mattered.” 

‘Like a fish in the water’ 

Cerny sees the upcoming games as a culmination of hard work and growth for Wog, who he and other coaches have worked with for many years.

“She’s like a fish in the water and … first time I saw her push off the wall when she was nine years old, I recognized the success,” he said. “But she has learned to train hard, she can train with the best in the world and she’s raced with the best in the world. It’s something that she’s worked towards.” 

Wog’s road to Paris continues at the University of Manitoba, where she’ll be training through the summer. And she hopes that training will lead to some Olympic hardware.

“I know I’m wrapping up my career and an Olympic year is such an amazing year to end on. I just wanted to make sure that I ended my career on a high,” she said.

“And I really do believe that I’m working towards that.”