Young athletic prodigies don’t come around very often. It’s rarer still to find such an athlete emerge in Greater Trail, and not perhaps where you’d expect him or her to excel – on a field or hockey rink – but in a pool.
Not even a teenager yet, Dylan Kormendy is a shy but precocious nine-year-old boy who just happens to be one of the best swimmers in the world for his age. The Fruitvale native is by all accounts at the very onset of what is shaping up to be a brilliant competitive swimming career.
“He is the greatest natural talent I have come across in my entire career and also has an uncanny work ethic,” said Greater Trail Swim Club coach Cody Flegel who swam for the national team and the University of Victoria.
Dylan will be swimming with the Greater Trail Swim Club (GTSC) at the SwimBC AAA SC age group championships in Victoria this weekend and is beginning to draw attention from swimming pools across North America and abroad, as he continues to set records and win medals against much older swimmers.
Indeed, Dylan will be making history as the youngest swimmer to compete at the meet.
“Triple A’s is comprised of the best 750 swimmers in B.C. and he (Dylan) is the only nine year old in the entire meet,” explained Flegel. “His category is for 11 and under. Almost all of the kids he will be racing against will be at least 11 with a very few 10 year olds who are soon turning 11.”
After winning three gold and two silver at the B.C. Summer Swimming Association provincials in August, Kormendy took his craft to the next level, joining the Greater Trail Swim team, a newly formed winter club, under the tutelage of coach Flegel.
The club trains extensively, just coming off a grueling two weeks where they swam 120 kilometres (4,800 laps) to increase endurance, then trained lightly for two weeks to renew their strength before entering the AAA meet.
It’s what sets Dylan apart from other swimmers. He has excellent training habits, picture-perfect technique, and phenomenal stamina for his age.
“A lot of these kids are physically bigger and stronger so for the shorter races it’s tough because they can muscle it, but in the longer ones his technique is so good and he trains so hard, his conditioning, he is able to beat them,” said Flegel.
The strategy and training has paid off as Dylan knocked 10 seconds off many of his longer swims since last season, and achieves personal bests almost every time he enters the pool.
“All we think about is two things: try to go best times, and try to stick to our race plan,” said Flegel. “So we’ve decided as long as we can go a bit faster than last time than we’ll get better and better, but you can’t control what other people do, so that’s what makes him so good. He’d rather swim a good race than win.”
Kormendy and most of the GTSC team qualified for the AAA meet based on performances at four SwimCanada meets: the KAJ Fall Classic, MJB Law Classic, Penticton Ironman Pentathlon, and the KAJ Snowfest in Kamloops last month.
Dylan not only qualified for seven of the U11 age group races, he laid down the best times in Canada for his age in seven events, two of which were also world-best marks. His 400 Individual Medley time was almost 20 seconds faster than the next best swim in Canada.
“There has been great athletes out of Trail, the Home of Champions . . . so as great as some of them are, I don’t know how many you can say were number one in the country, and I know you can’t say they were number one in the entire world,” said Flegel.
Dylan doesn’t mind the fact that most of his fellow competitors are older, taller, and perhaps stronger, he says he thrives on the competition, the training, and as his coach stresses – having fun.
“Sometimes he races up and races older people and sometimes he’ll race his own age so he can just have fun,” added Flegel. “We’re just trying to take it day-by-day, and meet-by-meet and just have lots of fun.”
Dylan looks to qualify for the nationals in Montreal this summer and has been invited to Australia to train with Canadian breaststroke champion and former two-time Olympian Morgan Knabe in August, followed by a meet against the best 10-year-old swimmers in the world.
In the long term, the young swimming phenom has his sights already set on the 2020 Olympics, and by then who knows? Michael Phelps’ record of eight gold medals in one Olympics just might be in jeopardy.