A brother-sister duo who grew up in the Yukon are making a splash down in British Columbia, swimming competitively across Western Canada and into the United States.
Tuja and Kassua Dreyer made the move from Whitehorse to Kelowna, B.C., in September of 2019 and have been swimming with the Kelowna Aquajets since then.
Both Kassua, 17, and Tuja, 14, trained with the Whitehorse Glacier Bears before the move to the B.C. Their dad still lives in the territory and they still return for school holidays.
“It’s definitely different, especially considering the Aquajets train in three different pools within the Kelowna area. So our team is huge. And it’s definitely really interesting to train with, like a larger senior group that has multiple swimmers at the same level, rather than just a few kids,” Kassua said of the move to a larger city with a larger club.
There are also opportunities for higher-level coaching and mentorship. Kassua had the opportunity to train alongside Kierra Smith, a two-time Olympian who swam breaststroke events representing Canada in both the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Our head coach at the time was also her coach who brought her to the Olympics, so that was really cool to experience that. Being trained in the same pool as an Olympian, that was crazy,” Kassua added.
Along with the strides he’s making in the pool, Tuja says he likes the warm weather in Kelowna.
Their most recent competition was a training meet in Kamloops. Kassua said all the swimmers were fairly tired from training and none cracked best times but it still served as a good opportunity to hone race strategies.
The hard training is set to continue.
“We’re starting another long training block for like, the next two months, basically, where we just build on the metres and the intensity and we work like really, really hard without tapering for any meets in between,” Kassua said.
She said the tapering of training metres swam and the focus will shift to speed when the swimmers start building up to the Junior and Senior Canadian Championships between July 25 to Aug. 1.
Tuja is preparing for a high profile swim meet of his own set to go to the Long Course Far Western Championships in July in California. He will also be representing the Yukon at the Canada Summer Games in August in Niagra, Ontario and returning to the territory to train alongside Team Yukon beforehand. Tuja is hoping for some best times at the nation-wide games.
Kassua’s favourite races are the 400-metre and 200-metre individual medley as well as the 400-metre freestyle. It is these mid-distance races that she says she is having the most fun with improving her race strategy.
Tuja is at his best in shorter distance butterfly races. He says his favourites are the 50 and 100 metre distances. He said he also likes the individual medley events and that he is also good at backstroke and freestyle but considers breaststroke a weak point.
Having recently graduated from high school, Kassua received good news recognizing both her academic and athletic achievements. She was named valedictorian at the Yukon First Nations Graduation and has also been recruited to the University of Calgary’s varsity Swim Team.
In September Tuja will be enrolled in a sports-focused school in Victoria, B.C. called the Claremont Sports Institute.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org