This summer, Revelstokian James LeBuke, 17 years old, will be swimming for Team Canada in the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
The competition features the world’s best junior swimmers. He is one of 19 swimmers selected for the Team Canada Juniors.
“A lot of kids were trying out,” says LeBuke. “I went to Toronto where the Canadian Trials were held. It’s the meet of the year, where swimmers can make the Senior Worlds, Pan Ams or the Junior Worlds, based on your performance at that one meet.”
LeBuke’s times were so fast that in the 50 metre freestyle he placed ninth in the Senior A finish. He is now on a list of three seventeen year olds to finished the race in under 23 seconds. LeBuke was equally impressive when he swam the 100 metre freestyle in under 51 seconds, a rare feat for any junior swimmer.
He’s been breaking records in the Revelstoke Swim Club, the Aquaducks, since he was a pre-teen. When he segued from the Revelstoke Swim team, which is a summer only team, to a Salmon Arm winter/year round team, he continued going from strength to strength.
“Year round swimming is a different game compared to summer swimming,” he explains. “In the summer swimming, you have three months a year to compete, which means a smaller group of swimmers. In year round swimming, there are a lot more competitors and a lot more events to compete in.”
The move to year round swimming happened two years ago, when he had finished a season on bantam hockey. “I was debating whether or not to move to play midget hockey, and I thought I would try a summer of all year round swimming. It went really well and I loved it. So I quit hockey and went full time swimming from there,” says LeBuke.
His family, LeBuke notes, is a big reason he has been able to achieve his goals. “My parents drive me to Salmon Arm five to six days a week to train,” he says. “They do so much for me, I’m really thankful.”
Role models in both hockey and swimming played a part in LeBuke’s success. Both groups have a culture of older participants encouraging and mentoring the youth within the programs, giving them strong competitors to look up to.
“I had great role models in town in hockey and swimming,” says LeBuke. “Bryce Molder in swimming for sure. When he started doing all year round swimming, I saw the dedication it took, and I knew if I wanted to succeed at high level I would have to dedicate myself just as much. Now I will try my best to set a good example.”
LeBuke has had the opportunity to travel with his family, but has never been in the part of the world where he will be competing.
“I’m super excited, we have a really fast team and I know I’m going to swim really fast there.”
With his swim career going strong, LeBuke, who will graduate in 2020, plans on swimming long afterwards.
“I’m in the process of finding a university. I believe I’ll be going to states for university swimming. I hope to decide where I’m going to school before I leave for Budapest.”