Whistler swimmer wraps up 'roller-coaster' season 

Kranjc finishes third year at Western University

click to flip through (2) PHOTO BY OLENA KLAHSEN - Kat Kranjc at U Sports Swimming Championships.
  • Photo by Olena Klahsen
  • Kat Kranjc at U Sports Swimming Championships.
 

Even not at her best, Kat Kranjc is in the mix to be an Olympian.

The Whistler swimmer, slowed by a sore rotator cuff at the U Sports Championships in Saanich at the end of February, posted times in the 50-metre butterfly and the 50-m freestyle that bested qualifying standards for the Olympic trials. The event would currently be underway in Toronto if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kranjc's best result came in the 100-metre freestyle on the third day of competition, as she made the B Final and placed 15th overall, a stark improvement from 45th a year ago. Kranjc won the C Final in both the 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly to take 17th overall in each. She also helped her Western University Mustangs to a 10th-place finish in the 4x100-metre freestyle relay.

"It was definitely a little nerve-wracking because I couldn't move my arm without tears coming to my eyes because my shoulder was in so much pain," she said. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to swim and all I could hope was that two days were enough time for the pain to subside."

The national meet capped an admittedly wild season for Kranjc, who, on the academic side, started her first year at the Ivey Business School.

"My junior season was a little bit of a roller coaster but I probably wouldn't have traded it for anything," she said.

As a result of her commitments as a student, Kranjc often had to train on her own. She shone, however, and gained some additional confidence in the trying circumstances.

"It showed me what I'm capable of. There's no one to race against when you're training on your own," she said. "It's only you and you're training against your best self."

When healthy, Kranjc posted excellent results, including at the Ontario University Athletics Swimming Championships, the major meet of the year.

Kranjc won three silver medals with different relay teams while helping set a school record in the 4x50-metre medley relay, making it the third year in a row she's been part of a new team record.

"This team record hasn't been broken for 10 years, so it was really nice to have that experience, and have it with the girls that were in that relay as well," she said.

Individually, Kranjc made three finals while posting personal bests, including taking a close fourth, 0.11 seconds out of the medals, in the 50-metre butterfly and was 0.13 seconds off the podium in fifth in the 50-metre freestyle.

"My turns and finishes cost me quite a bit of time and the time difference between me and third was less than that," she said. "After the morning swim, I was second going into finals [in the butterfly] so I was hoping to podium, but I didn't. It fuelled the fire underneath of me going forward because we knew that there was room for improvement."

When the Olympic trials are rescheduled, meanwhile, Kranjc will look to punch her ticket to Tokyo in the 50-m freestyle after qualifying in 2019. Despite feeling confident going into the event as it was originally scheduled, Kranjc feels the additional time will only allow her to increase her odds.

"One more year won't hurt me. In fact, it'll probably make me stronger," she said. "It's an opportunity to get better. This season showed me that I still haven't peaked yet, there's still a ton of room for improvement on the back half of my races, as well as technique-wise.

"Next year, I'll have a lot more time to train with a lighter course load."

And, in light of the current situation with COVID-19, Kranjc feels she'll adapt just fine to preparing by her lonesome.

"Training this season by myself has definitely given me a bit of a confidence booster going in now, because I know I can train by myself," she said. "Having the experience of training and racing against your best self is something that's really going to help moving forward. It's not ideal, but you've got to work with what you have."

Currently, Kranjc is doing classes online from her family's vacation home in New Jersey where she's staying with sister Gigi, who just finished her first year with the Boston College ski team.

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