author: elisabeth sahlmueller | staff writer
Solid performance by the third-year swimmer / Courtesy of the University of Regina
Brian Palaschuk wins silver, bronze at U SPORTS Championships
After an intense three days of competition from February 21-23, the U of R Cougars men’s swimming team wrapped up their season with an astonishing sixth–place finish at the U Sports Championships held in Vancouver B.C., an accomplishment which broke the team’s current
finishing record set in 2003, when they placed 7th. While this impressive victory was achieved though outstanding performances from all six team swimmers, third–year team member Brian Palaschuk had a major role in the team’s success.
Palaschuk originally became interested in swimming during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He loved the look of the swimmers doing the butterfly, especially Michael Phelps, and thought it be awesome to try that. Since then, Palaschuk has participated in various swimming competitions and has grown immensely in skill level and experience which has enabled him to become the talented and successful swimmer he is today.
In this past competition, Palaschuk had his best U SPORTS performance. Not only did he establish multiple records during preliminaries, but he also obtained a double podium finish. On the first day of competition, he earned a silver medal in the 200m. individual medley with a stunning time of 2:02.26, only two–tenths of a second behind the first–place swimmer, Montana Champagne from Ottawa. This rewarding second–place finish is significant because this event also happens to currently be his favourite.
“It’s a fast and explosive event with a lot of technical elements and transitions,” he said.
Day two was also monumental for Palaschuk as he won bronze in the 400m. individual medley, an event which he has “rekindled” his love for.
Despite his major accomplishment, like any strong team member, Palaschuk views his success as part of a combined team effort and is pleased with how well the entire team did throughout the competition.
“The team’s performance at U SPORTS was really amazing and individual
performances from every athlete were excellent.”
This same pride is expressed with the team’s head coach Abderrahmane Tissira.
“We prepared well [both] physically and mentally for nationals [with] team building in Canmore [and] a high–altitude training camp during Christmas break, [so it] is nice to see all that hard work finally paying off.”
It is clear that team members have a very strong relationships formed through the hours spent together training, practicing, competing and participating in team bonding activities. Some of Palaschuk’s most favourite memories from this past season aren’t his own victories, but
rather moments spent with his team-mates, such as when the team went on an alpine hike in Canmore.
“It was a great experience to stand on top of the world together. I have also enjoyed getting to watch my team-mates qualify for their first U SPORTS competition [because] the boys always get hyped up for those big races and we have a blast cheering each other on and seeing each other having success.”
Although it is exciting for spectators to watch these major swimming competitions, it is easy to forget how much physical and mental preparation each of these individuals experience not just before competing, but also on a weekly basis.
As the head coach told me, some of his student athletes train “[up to] thirty hours a week“. As Palaschuk explained, this involves at least nine two–hour sessions in the water, three one–hour weight workouts, stretching and core, as well as individual mental skills like goal-setting, self–talk and visualization.
Additionally, time management also becomes difficult when playing university–level sports, especially trying to make time to catch up on schoolwork, get notes, and building a relationship with classmates when you are always busy. However, as a member of the Cougar’s swim team, Palaschuk has learned how find a balance between school, training and recovery, as well as how to set and work toward achieving long–term goals. He has also learned how essential it is not to sacrifice sleep.
“Once you do, both athletic and academic performance fall quickly and it [becomes] a vicious cycle,” Palaschuk said.
His biggest advice for new varsity athletes is to work when you are awake and never sacrifice your sleep.
Tissira has also learned a lot as head coach, but the most important is that hard work pays off.
“We can achieve anything we want, no matter where we start,” he said.
While being a student athlete has various challenging moments, it can be rewarding and worthwhile, especially when you are doing what you enjoy. For Palaschuk, the best part about swimming is racing. Being able to go out and compete with great swimmers is the reason he puts in all the crazy hours of training.
I enjoy the daily satisfaction after a good workout and the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing I’m working towards my goal,” Palaschuk said.
Similarly, Tissira also enjoys being their coach, considering it his dream job, because [these men] make themselves accountable and everyday they want to be better and improve themselves at least one per cent.
However, just like with any sport, support and inspiration has a major role in overall success. Palaschuk’s inspiration comes from his parents, team-mates, and Japanese Olympic gold medalist in the 400m. medley, Kosuke Hagino.
“I am thankful that both of my parents taught me what it means to work hard, and they embody that everyday. Hagino is a smaller swimmer like me, so that inspires me. I also had the opportunity to train with him in Tokyo this November and he was a monster in workout.”
A good coach is also a major contributing factor to an athlete’s success, and while Palaschuk has had a variety of good coaches, he is extremely grateful for Demone Tissira, who he has worked with for the last five years.
“He knows how to push and get the most out of me. Tissira is a great technical coach and he is always open to try new things and go outside of the box. I think that adaptability has helped us to evolve and improve over the years.”