There is an emerging Canadian swimmer that has the aquatic world buzzing. And her name isn't Penny Oleksiak.
It's Taylor Ruck. And if you follow swimming closely, you've likely heard the name. If not, you'll likely be hearing a lot of it in the years to come. Starting with the Commonwealth Games that kick off Wednesday in Australia.
"She's on the edge of greatness. She is on the edge of a major breakthrough." said Byron Macdonald, her longtime coach and the CBC's swimming analyst.
"People have been watching her in the United States, since she was 12, break records left, right and centre. She only started coming up to Canada a year before the Olympics and we were like, 'She is a pretty big talent.'"
Ruck is uncomfortable with the praise, but embraces the possibility.
"I think a lot of swimmers are on the edge of greatness. As long as you keep working hard, greatness is possible," Ruck said recently over the phone from Australia. "I think anything I put my mind to is possible."
The 17-year-old Ruck is still relatively new in the world of Canadian swimming. She was born in Kelowna, B.C., but moved to Arizona with her Canadian parents when she was young.
She returned to Canada last year to train fulltime, but not before she had already dominated junior swimming competing for her birth country. Over the course of two FINA world junior championships, Ruck won nine medals, the most ever by a Canadian.
Her coming out party was supposed to be the 2016 Olympics in Rio. But Ruck performed poorly in the Canadian trials and needed a special coach's exception just to make the team.
"It was the best thing they ever did because without her we don't win two of our medals," Macdonald said.
Ruck emerged as a key part of Canada's relay team that captured bronze in the 4x100 and 4x200-metre freestyle relays.
Ruck's upward trajectory then hit a minor blip. At the Canadian championships in 2017, Ruck failed to finish higher than fourth in any of her disciplines, failing to qualify for the world championships.
Despite that, Macdonald said there is something special about watching Ruck swim.
"She has beautiful technique, but she also sits very high in the water and that's something you can't teach and it allows her to get better leverage," he said.
Dave Ling, who has coached many of Canada's top swimmers including Oleksiak, agrees with Macdonald's assessment of the teenager.
"I get very excited when I see Taylor Ruck," he said. "She is incredibly talented and physically capable. When you have hard work with the type of talent she has, count me among those who are starry-eyed. This girl is the real deal."
Swimming across a variety of lengths and disciplines, Ruck has enjoyed considerable success on the professional circuit this year. At a recent meet in Atlanta, Ruck won both the 200 backstroke and the 200 free, that in a Canadian record time of one minute 56.85 seconds.
"I was definitely blown away a little bit because I have never done those times before," Ruck said. "I looked up at the scoreboard and I was just baffled."
Credits move to Toronto
Ruck credited the decision to move to Toronto to train with Ben Titley, coach of Canada's swim team in Rio, as the difference-maker.
Her results have Ruck's teammates and the swimming community excited to see what comes next.
"Looking at the results from some of her races, she is obviously super versatile," said Hilary Caldwell, the most senior member of Canada's Commonwealth Games team. "She threw down a 200m individual medley that surprised a lot of people and I think she is really on track to swim well at the meet down here."
"This is going to be the coming out party for Taylor," Macdonald said. "She could win six medals, maybe even seven. I don't know if she can get to the top of the podium, but she is poised and ready to make a big breakthrough.
"The question is just how big."
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