Olympic Medalist Brent Hayden Inspires Local Swimmers By Chris Davis & Kim Jorgenson
Chris Davis with Kim Jorgenson - World Champion and Olympic Bronze medalist for Canada Brent Hayden and his wife Nadina Zarifeh were at the Pincher Creek Pool and in a classroom setting March 24-26 to teach and inspire local youth swimmers. 23 kids participated in their half-day lessons on the Friday, and 17 attended their weekend-long boot camp. "I'm just giving back everything I learned from my years being an international swimmer representing Canada to help the new generation," said Hayden after Saturday's pool session. "I'm blessed to be in this position."
Hayden and Zarifeh bring a varied background to their educational efforts.
Hayden was born in Mission, British Columbia, He and Zarifeh now reside in Vancouver. According to his bio, Hayden is the Canadian record-holder in the 200-metre, 100-metre and 50-metre freestyle in both the short-course and long-course, and has also held the world record in the 4×100-metre medley relay, and the 4×200-metre freestyle relay. He was co-World Champion (with Filippo Magnini of Italy) in the 200 metre freestyle in 2007, to become the first Canadian in 21 years to win a gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships, He competed for 22 years before winning the bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He was the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in that event.
"It doesn't really matter where anybody comes from. I think if they have the heart, the passion, and the desire to do that, they can make their dreams possible with whatever they have." - Brent Hayden
In total Hayden had a ten year international career with Team Canada, and participated in three Olympics as well as a multitude of other international competitive swimming events. The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens was his first Olympics competition and almost proved to be his last. After a disappointing showing in the competition itself, he was mistaken for a protester the night before the final ceremonies, because he was "tall and wearing a dark shirt", and was beaten and arrested by riot police. The injuries he sustained hampered his career for a while, and he almost quit the sport. "I could get over that, but when I got home, people heard about it, and they got the facts wrong. They said it happened the night before the relay... and it was actually the alarm thing (discussed in more detail later in this article). It happened a week after the swimming was already done, the night before the closing ceremonies. "It made me want to quit swimming. Having a negative performance I could deal with," he said. "I probably shouldn't have been there. Wrong place, wrong time, to begin with. In that particular situation, I probably should have gone back to the Village, earlier on."
He decided to persevere, with the help of counseling and the people around him. "It took a lot of people around me to realize that was just a chapter in my life and in failure there is always a lesson to learn," he explained. "That extra added negativity on there, just solidified my foundation for a successful career moving forward, with the exception of Beijing (the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics), where I had another lesson to learn." That perseverance paid off, he went on to win a significant number of medals and awards at the national and international levels. He was 28 and considered to be getting to old for the sport in 2012 when he won his Olympic Bronze in London. He flew to Lebanon after the 2012 ceremonies to marry Zarifeh. They met through swimming, having the same coach at the time.
Nadina Zarifeh was a National level breast stroke swimmer at 13 years old, until a back injury interfered with her competitive future. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon during the that country's brutal civil war. At the age of 7 she performed (as a singer) and won the Zecchino D'oro UNICEF festival in Italy, bringing her both fame and fortune, and a career in music. With her family she emigrated to Canada in 1990 to escape the violence of the the Lebanese civil war. She signed with Nettwerk Records and produced the Album 'In The Now', which is available on Amazon and iTunes (click here to purchase it). She wrote, composed and produced the songs with Merrit/Vancouver songwriter Christie Smith and Lebanon's Michel Fadel. She also swam for her home country of Lebanon at the United Arab Olympics. Here are a few of her English language videos. She also performs and records in Arabic. She has beencoaching and teaching swimming for over 15 years. "She has been teaching and doing curriculum development, and supervising at one of the top private swim schools in North America, Aquaventures." Brent told me. Aquaventures Swim Centreis located in Vancouver. Hayden and Zarifeh are planning a move to nearby New Westminister, BC. They have no children but do have a Pomenranian/Sheltie cross (or a 'Poshie') named Chewbacca.
Zarifeh and Hayden coach privately at the elite level and run Brent Hayden Swim Camps across Canada. The couple work together combining her teaching background and his international experience "Its a truly unique opportunity to get the maximum amount of improvement in the shortest amount of time," said Hayden. They also have an apparel line, AstraAthletics, that offers a 10% revenue return program for aspiring swimmers to earn commissions off of their sales, most often promoted through social media. The idea is that if the athletes earn money they can put it toward their career, and possible gain the notice of other sponsors. "We help that athlete get to that point," said Hayden.
Hayden said he enjoys the travel and the chance to meet so many people, "and have an impact on their life going forward." The rapport the two of them established with the kids in Pincher Creek was visible.
Hayden wasn't always a successful athlete. When he was young he failed swimming lessons, after which his parents enrolled him in competitive swimming, and he discovered he loved it. His childhood goal was to swim in the Olympics, and in grade 3 he stood up in class and told everyone he would one day make it to the Olympics. He didn't pursue it for a long time. "A lot of people think I must have been a good swimmer my entire life, but I failed swimming lessons," he said. "I just got into it because my parents signed me up. I found my passion for it that way. I didn't even start winning until I was about 15 years old, and Summer Club." He swam for 10 years in Summer Club, and it took him that amount of time to win his first provincial medal. He joined Winter Club the next year, and three years later he made it to the Canadian National Team.
In part swimming was his escape from being bullied in school. "I thrived in swimming because it was only me I had to beat." He attributes his success to dedication, a lesson he hopes to pass on to his young charges. "Whatever it is they want to do, they are going to have to commit themselves entirely to that, and pay attention to the details," he explained. At his first Olympics in Athens he was 20 years old, and he woke up in the middle of the night instead of in the morning after setting his alarm clock incorrectly. "That little error right there. I ended up panicking, and wasting a lot of emotional energy on how I had already screwed up before I even swam. By the time I got onto the blocks, I was totally flattened. That was a huge life lesson for me."
"In every failure there is an opportunity to learn things. Do not let a bad moment define you." - Brent Hayden
Brent's smoothie recipe
Hayden embraces a sentiment that is also often heard from the Pincher Creek Dolphin Swim Club, that swimming is most about self improvement and character building. Despite winning and placing well at many competitions, sportsmanship awards still matter the most to him. "A great athlete can make a great human being as well." - Brent Hayden Hayden also warns against overconfidence. He said he learned that from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which ended in disappointment for both him as an individual and the Canadian team. He decided to play it safe when he should have gone full out in the heat, came in 12th, and had to watch the final from the stands. It should be noted that these are people who are disappointed when they don't medal, even though they made it to the Olympics. "You should never expect the results. You have to make them happen."
"There is a difference being an extraordinary young athlete, and an ordinary young athlete. And it is professionalism. You have to be more professional, both in and out of the pool. I had to learn that, first hand." - Brent Hayden
Dolphin Ben Cooley with Hayden's Olympic Bronze medal "Even when the competition is over, you are still a role model to kids. It's not even just keeping out of trouble, it's just about being responsible, and setting a good example, even when people aren't watching." "It doesn't matter the size of the town you grow in. A lot of the Olympians I talk to grew up in small towns. It depends on the size of your heart. From there, anything is possible. - Brent Hayden
Brent Hayden, Nadina Zarifeh, Kullen Molaro, Pincher Creek Archery Club's Leah Filipuzzi During their visit Hayden and Zarifeh checked out the Pincher Creek Archery Club, and discovered they love the sport. They also stopped by the Burmis Tree and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre on their way to a farewell dinner in the Crowsnest Pass.
At the Burmis Tree Kim Jorgenson said Hayden and Zarifeh have already been asked to come back to Pincher Creek next year due to the success of their program. "Brent and Nadina's personalities made this possible. They are down to earth and truly care about the kids."
"Former Canadian Olympic swimmer Brent Hayden helps make impact on local swimmers with camp"
Avery Barnett dreams of swimming in the Olympics. To help reach that dream he attended the Brent Hayden Swim Camps over the weekend at the Penticton Community Centre. It’s the second time Barnett has attended the camp, as Hayden and wife Nadina Zerifeh were asked by the club to come. “I really wanted to improve how I was doing my strokes for distances,” said Barnett, one of 17 swimmers in the camp. “I found that because I’m a larger guy (6-foot-4), that with my shorter stroking it wasn’t helping me out as much versus having a longer stroke. They have helped me with that.”
After the work he had done in last year’s camp, Barnett noticed a difference in his performances.
“I’m very trusting they know what to do,” said Barnett. “He’s a great role model. I just really want to see where this will take me in life.”
Barnett’s friend Xelian Louw also wanted to see what he could learn, entering it for the first time. “I’m going to remember these things for a long time,” said Louw, who focused on working on his techniques. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard with him telling me.” “A lot of them get so inspired by Brent and his story,” said Zerifeh of her husband, who won bronze at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. “As a kid he failed swimming lessons twice. It kind of inspires them in a different way. They want to be here.” “It’s really amazing. It teaches you how to do strokes,” said Madison Seeley, who worked on her freestyle swim, as well as flip turns and starts. “He helps you get faster and improve your stroke. It’s just fun to know how you can get better.” Of the 17 swimmers, six returned for a second time and Hayden saw how much better they are. “You can definitely tell how they respond a lot quicker,” he said. “What we taught them last year, as soon as you start reminding them, it kind of comes out of the depths of their memory. They are physically able to adapt to the direction that we’re able to given them.” After spending time with swimmers in the water and providing tips, Hayden told the group when they get home to write down things that are in their mind so they don’t forget. There was a lot of information to absorb. He also emphasized the importance of them pushing themselves.
“We can definitely make them faster swimmers by the way they swim,” said Hayden. Stroke counts were performed and there was a decrease in every swimmer. “They are taking fewer strokes per length. They are going to have more gas in the tank,” said Hayden, who won a gold, three silver medals and a bronze in world championship competition, to go with eight medals in the Commonwealth Games, including two gold. “They are going to be moving through the water a lot more efficiently. Each stroke is going to be more effective.”
Hayden said you don’t know how every athlete will learn. He said being able to explain things and show it visually are two important ways. Zarifeh said it is important they learn how to do techniques properly in the camp and execute them in practice properly.
“You can’t go into a race and expect to do it when it isn’t done right in a practice,” she said. “It’s reaction time. It’s when you’re racing, every little bit counts.”
What both of them saw in the swimmers was a desire to learn.
Olympian shares expertise with local swimmers By Shannon Robinson
Forty local swimmers had an opportunity to learn from one of the best when Brent Hayden spent a weekend in Pincher Creek last month. Swim moms Kim Jorgensen and Sherri Gleave learned that Brent was offering swim camps and organized the workshop. They felt youth in the Pincher Creek Dolphins and Crowsnest Pass Piranhas swim clubs would benefit from his expertise. Kim and Sherri were prepared to take a financial loss if they didn’t reach their registration goal, simply to be sure the opportunity could be offered. In the end, they are each out of pocket only $20 after 23 signed up for the one-day 11-and-under session, and 17 for the two-day bootcamp for those 12 and over. Brent’s career peaked with a bronze-medal win in the 100-metre freestyle event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He shares his story of learning from adversity with a tale that begins with him failing swimming lessons not once, but twice. He stresses that no one is born a champion. The motivational aspect of his coaching is as important as the physical. He shares personal anecdotes of setting goals, missing them and mustering up the gumption to try again. The swimmers listened intently and appeared to take the lessons to heart as Brent and his wife, Nadina Zarifeh, led them through the weekend. The couple share a teaching philosophy, specializing in stroke dynamic efficiency. Their focus is on ensuring the swimmers are getting maximum efficiency in the water in the shortest amount of time. “It’s truly a unique learning experience,” Brent said. “The kids completely change their strokes.” He noted similarities to other swimmers in small pools who tend to lift their heads because they don’t want to run into one another. “They need to keep their eyes on the bottom of the pool,” he said, adding “there is a chain reaction of the stroke falling apart when the head lifts.” Classroom time included discussion of goal setting, nutrition and mental preparation. Brent said the culmination of his failures is what set him up for his bronze-medal performance and the stories he shared were meant to inspire the young swimmers to stay determined and learn from their mistakes. Each swimmer had the chance to hold Brent’s medal — what better reinforcement could there be? Brent and Nadina were pleased with the coachability of the swimmers attending the sessions and said they responded well to the changes. “Swimming is a sport where you’re not manipulating any objects — it’s just your body moving through the water,” he said. “The awareness of what the body is doing can be difficult to change, but they made changes more easily than what we’ve seen from other groups.” Kullen Molaro is taking the lessons seriously. He said he had never kicked and had never been corrected before. Now he is swimming with his brain as well as his body and planning to continue practising. “It’s not as much about racing hard as it is about racing smart,” Brent said. “The biggest part is how you move through the water.” Swimmers counted their strokes before drills and again afterward. Brent said all were using significantly fewer strokes by the end. Kullen saw a reduction from 36 to 15. Notes from the session and muscle memory will help the swimmers when they can begin training again in May. While Kim wishes more had taken advantage of the workshop, plans are already in the works for next year and she is confident there will be a waiting list now that people know what Brent’s camps are about. She feels there would also be benefit to a coaches session as there are always new tools to implement and more efficient ways to do things. Brent’s talents extend beyond the pool. As well as offering coaching and motivational speaking, he is an avid photographer. Brent and Nadina will launch a new line of performance apparel — Astra Athletica — this summer that supports Canadian athletes through a unique commission program. You can learn more by visiting www.brenthayden.com.
Blue Fins Receive Olympic Inspiration By Staff Writer
Williams Lake Blue Fins swimmers were treated to some world-class instruction last weekend in Quesnel from Canadian Olympic swimming bronze-medalist and world champion Brent Hayden. The Blue Fins joined members from the Quesnel Waveriders for the clinic, hosted by Brent and his wife, Nadina — a former national-level swimmer — for two solid days. “[They] instilled their knowledge and passion of swimming to more than 60 swimmers at the Quesnel Pool,” said Blue Fins head coach Chad Webb. “Brent and Nadina were in and out of the water all weekend with the swimmers teaching them technique and dryland skills that will help them swim faster. “Nadina shared her war-torn childhood in Lebanon and how she overcame many obstacles to get where she is today.” Meanwhile, Hayden passed along his Olympic experiences and knowledge with many hours of teaching and inspiring young swimmers to reach high for their dreams, Webb said. The Quesnel Waveriders Swim Club hosted the event while approximately 20 Williams Lake Blue Fins attended one- and two-day camps to improve their performances. For more on the Williams Lake Blue Fins visit www.wlbluefins.ca or e-mail Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.