Irricana swimmer Addison Butler may have gotten an unexpected calf workout at the 2022 Canada Summer Games this month, just based on the number of times he stepped on and off the podium.
The 17-year-old swimmer, who calls an acreage outside Irricana home but swims for the Cascade Swim Club in Calgary, was the only athlete from the small rural community to compete at the Canada Summer Games, an event that is taking place from Aug. 6 to 21 in Niagara, Ont.
Although the recent high-school grad spends nearly as much time in Calgary as he does in Irricana these days, Butler said it was a privilege to represent Irricana on the national stage in Niagara this month.
“I know there aren’t too many people from that area who are in sports,” he said. “I’m glad I could represent it as best as I could, even though I’m not 100 per cent there [since] I train in Calgary and go to school in Calgary.”
Butler demonstrated his versatility by competing and placing in multiple events throughout the swimming competition at this month's Canada Summer Games – a multi-sport event held every four years that features some of the country's top U20 athletes. Despite the fierce competition in the pool, Butler picked up five medals in Niagara, including gold in the 4x100-metre (m) freestyle mixed relay and silvers in the 200-m individual medley and 4x100-m medley relay.
Perhaps surprisingly, Butler said it wasn't the gold or the two silvers he was most proud of, but rather his bronze in the 50-m butterfly. The accolade came thanks to a finals time of 25:54, which he said was especially fast for him.
“It was kind of out of nowhere – it’s just a side event for me – but I ended up dropping a massive amount of time, beating my teammates and I ended up medalling,” he said. “It’s kind of one I’m proud of, even though it wasn’t as high a placement as some of my other events.”
Butler also picked up bronze in the men's 4x200-m freestyle relay to round out the new additions to his medal cabinet at home.
While those were his highest-placing events, Butler swam in a wide range of events, finishing eighth in the men's breast stroke, fourth in the 4x100-m freestyle relay, ninth in the 200-m freestyle, 34th in the 400-m freestyle, sixth in the 100-m freestyle, and 27th in the 50-m freestyle.
He added the freestyle is typically his strongest stroke, but he likes training for the individual medley (IM) the most.
“I ended up medalling in the 200 IM, which I was happy about because it’s one of my favourite events to race,” he said.
Butler's head coach for Cascade, David Johnson, said Butler was originally hoping to qualify for the Canadian swimming team for this year's Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, but a shoulder injury impacted his ability to be selected for that squad. But winning a collection of medals at the Canada Summer Games was a great consolation.
“As it worked out, he ended up having a wonderful experience at the Canada Games and won quite a few medals,” he said. “He was a pretty significant leader inside Team Alberta and I thought he had a great season. Now he can use that as a launching pad to move himself up the ranks of Canadian swimming.”
Having coached Butler for more than a decade now, Johnson said the teen has a great “feel” for the water.
“He’s got a nice what we call touch on his strokes,” he said. “He’s a young swimmer in that with the pandemic, he missed a lot of competitive opportunities that normally would have been available to him as a 15, 16-year-old.”
The Canada Summer Games capped off a busy competition season for Butler this spring and summer. Prior to travelling to Ontario, highlights included racing in the Canadian Junior and Senior Championships from July 25 to Aug. 1 in Montreal.
With the summer competition season in the rear-view mirror, the 17-year-old now has his sights set on beginning his post-secondary career. He'll be joining the University of Calgary Dinos varsity swim team in the fall.
“That will be a good experience for him,” Johnson said of his athlete's opportunity to race for the perennially strong U of C swim team, where he will receive further guidance from long-time swim coach Mike Blondal.
“He needs to improve his end game, meaning his ability to get to the wall in close situations,” Johnson said. “I’m sure he’ll be asked to work on that when he swims in that competitive university [environment] that is U SPORTS swimming. But I think he has a bright future. He just needs to keep getting stronger and working on it.”
However, Butler said the strength of the Dinos swim team was only part of the reason he chose to keep his studies local, adding his intent to study at the Haskayne School of Engineering was another motivator.
“The swim program is great, which I know because I’m close with a lot of the people on the team,” he said. “But I think one of the larger decisions why I wanted to go to the U of C was for school, because I’m going into the engineering program.
“But the strength of their swim team aided in that decision.”