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BEYOND LOCAL: Aurora artistic swimmer helps Team Canada to Olympics

15-year-old Olena Verbinska training to secure her spot on the national team to compete in Paris games
Aurora swimmer Olena Verbinska helped Team Canada earn a place at the Paris Olympics in artistic swimming.

Aurora resident Olena Verbinska has dedicated most of her life to her sport of artistic swimming.

The 15-year-old has partaken in it since the age of five, training and practicing in clubs consistently. 

That helped pay off with her making Team Canada for the World Aquatic Championships in Qatar Feb. 2 to 10 and helping the country qualify for the competition at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

“It’s been an incredible experience, honestly. Out of this world,” she said. “The result is incredible. I’m still really, really happy.”

Verbinska was part of the 12-person team that helped ensure Canada would compete at the Olympics starting July 26. With a fourth-place finish in the team technical event, a sixth-place finish in the team technical and a seventh in the team free swim, Canada was able to take the last qualifying spot for Paris.

Verbinska said it capped off a challenging run.

“Our team this year has been through a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “Fortunately, we were able to stay together.”

Verbinska said she first got into the sport when her brother brought a flyer home for artistic swimming, though was more interested in soccer himself. Seeking her own sport, her mother decided to bring her in to try it.

Verbinska said she soon embraced artistic swimming.

“I really liked it, and I just kept doing it,” she said. 

Starting off swimming in Etobicoke, her family moved to Aurora and she joined the local York Artistic Swimming, where she said she started to excel and make podiums.

“There’s so many incredible people in the community is amazing, especially in Aurora and Newmarket,” she said. “That’s really where I started to find my passion. I started to really enjoy what I was doing because of all of my coaches, just everyone around me, plus my love of the sport. That really kept me going.” 

Without a high-performance team in Aurora, Verbinska opted to attend Remix Artistic Swimming Club in Toronto, which helped her get to the national level. 

After practicing in her original hometown in Ukraine to train during pandemic lockdown — before war broke out — she returned to Toronto to continue to train. She started the trials for Team Canada again, making the squad and getting to compete at worlds.

She made the senior national team in 2022 when she was just 13 and helped the squad win silver and bronze medals at the 2023 World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup Super Final. 

Although she helped Canada qualify for the Olympics in 2024, she will have to try out like anyone else to actually make the Olympic team.

That has entailed a lot of time training, balancing six to eight hours of that per day with her high school classes. 

“There’s definitely been some hard times, but at the end of the day,” she said. "It’s worth it.” 

She feels pretty good about her chances to make the team, after competing at worlds.

“I have a better chance than some other girls, but I am still working hard and making sure that I’m still up there at the top.”

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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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