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Ross River Dena Council swimmer set for Junior Pan Pacific Championship

Tuja Dreyer will soon be off to Australia following success at Olympic trials in Toronto

A teen from the Ross River Dena council is making a splash on the international stage for competitive swimming. 

Sixteen-year-old Tuja Dreyer has been selected to represent Canada’s national swimming team at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships scheduled to take place between August 21 and 24 in Canberra, Australia. 

He received the news after winning two gold medals at the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic trials in Toronto in May. His set of wins comes as he plans for future ambitions to stand on the podium at the 2028 Olympics. 

The Junior Pan Pacific championships are open to swimming federations from nations who have shorelines bordering the Pacific Ocean. Swimming Canada, the nation’s federation for competitive swimming, had six athletes on the Junior Pan Pacific Championship teams who later went on to compete at an Olympic level.

This is something Tuja would like to emulate. 

“It’s good to get your name out there, especially when you’re really this young. I’m really excited to see what happens,” said Tuja. 

Tuja went on to tell the News that his Olympic trials were in the individual medley events which involves switching up stroke styles in a specific order after completing each quarter of the race. 

“Something like the 400 (individual medley) takes a lot of hours practice because you have to work on all your strokes, but also your aerobic capacity,” he said. 

“I practice by swimming 18 hours a week and about two to three hours of strength training.” 

Tuja participated in Swimming Canada’s national development program which aims to identify and build on the strengths of young athletes to one day progress onto senior teams, according to the federation’s website. He spent February practicing for May’s trials at the development camp at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver. 

Tuja is currently back training with the Whitehorse Glacier Bears while he is in the territory. Although he grew up in Ross River, Dreyer now trains with Island Swimming Club based out of Victoria, B.C. 

“My school works with my club, Island Swimming. Instead of having physical health classes, I get to use that block for training,” he said. 

Despite the demanding training cycle, there are opportunities to balance sporting ambition with academic success. The Claremont Sports Institute provides Tuja with a program which allows aspiring athletes the opportunity to gain academic credit for their training efforts. His fourth block consists of practice which may one day help make his ambitions of becoming an Olympic athlete a reality. 

The teenager became involved in the sport following in his sister’s footsteps. Kassua Dreyer took home six medals at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games and competed alongside her brother during the 2023 North American Indigenous Games.  

Tuja, then 15, took home two silver medals for the individual medley event. Kassua had previously spoken to the News about what sharing the experience with her brother meant. 

“It was a really fun experience for us,” she said, 

“When I moved out I hadn’t seen much of Tuja and we haven’t had a lot of competitions together.” 

Tuja will aim to compete at the national championships in July prior to August’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships.