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LeBlanc qualifies for nationals

Charli LeBlanc PortraitCharli LeBlanc’s biggest competitor is herself.

After turning heads with her blazing victory at the Jack Scholtz Invitational swim meet on Oct. 17, the UNB Varsity Reds women’s swim team rookie is looking forward to a strong season.

LeBlanc had three first-place finishes on the opening day of the Atlantic University Sport swimming season — the 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke and 400m medley relay. Her time of 30.03 seconds in the 50m backstroke made her the first AUS swimmer to qualify for nationals.

For LeBlanc, the win was bittersweet.

“I wanted to break 30 seconds,” she said. “I’m grateful I qualified this time, but it’s a little frustrating — everybody’s happy you made nationals, but what you wanted in your head was to break 30. It’s right there — it’s the difference between your fingernail touching and the fingertip touching. It’s so close.”

While this is LeBlanc’s first year at UNB, she said that both her family and especially Varsity Reds women’s swimming head coach Robin Ferdinand have long encouraged her to come to Fredericton.

“[Ferdinand] has always been interested in how and where I’m swimming,” she explained. “She’s the only coach that really paid attention to where I was at. For her to have an interest before I was even here, it meant the world to me.”

LeBlanc has dabbled in every organized sport she could — basketball, soccer, hockey, baseball and tennis. But for her, swimming has a singular appeal that no other sport has.

“Everything I love about it, I hate about it,” she said. “With other sports you could depend on team members, but swimming is completely about you, what you do and what you push against yourself.”

LeBlanc said it’s the emphasis on the individual performance, not the competition, that keeps her in the pool.

“I never liked beating other people; I liked beating myself. And it’s easier to push yourself when you’re not pushing against others.”

Despite her big win, LeBlanc has no plans to rest on her laurels — she’s already eyeing her next breakthrough in the pool, which is breaking the 30 second mark in the 50m backstroke.

“Not to step on anybody’s toes, but I really want to break the pool record for 50m backstroke, and hopefully eventually the 100m backstroke too,” she said. “My goal is really just to get the distance in — the pool I used to swim at was 18.5m long and you couldn’t even do competitions there, so to be able to actually do a 200m backstroke would definitely be one of my bigger goals.”

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