Peyton Leigh, 15, to compete for shot at making it to Paris Games in 2024
Standing just five-foot-five, with a shoe size of eight and a half, Peyton Leigh says she is “short for a swimmer,” but the 15-year-old has never let that slow her down.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake teen has just qualified to compete in the Canadian Olympic trials in two events – the 200-metre butterfly and the 400-metre freestyle.
A strong performance could mean a chance to represent Canada at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Her mother Christi notes the journey toward the Olympics began when Peyton was just four months old, with swimming lessons under coach Margaret Park.
By age five she had joined the Garden City Aquatic Club and at seven she was swimming competitively.
“My family definitely inspired me. My mom swam a bit, too,” Leigh said in an interview.
She long has been working toward qualifying for the 200-metre butterfly and achieved that goal during the Eastern Canadian Championships in Windsor last weekend.
Earlier in March, when she qualified for the Olympic trials in the 400-metre freestyle at the Ontario Winter Swimming Championships in Scarborough, it was a bit of a surprise.
“Making the (400 freestyle) was kind of a shock to me. I didn’t go into it expecting to make it.”
Success comes with many hours of hard work.
She trains 20 hours a week, waking up at 4:40 a.m. most days. She’s in the pool by 5:30, which makes for some long, intense days.
She swims eight times a week: Monday morning and afternoon, Tuesday morning, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning, Friday morning and afternoon, and Saturday morning.
Sunday is her day off.
Her secret fuel for the gruelling training process? “Pasta and lots of sleep.”
“It’s all worth it and it’s all super fun.”
That being said, Leigh expects if she makes it to the Olympics, her training schedule won’t change too much aside from more time dedicated to training and focusing.
She joined the Brock University swim team about a year ago.
“I had a new coach this year, Dave Ling and he’s definitely helped me a lot. I couldn’t have done it if he hadn’t become a coach here,” she said.
Aside from Olympic prospects, she has other big journeys ahead – she started Grade 9 at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School last September.
Balancing high school and swimming makes life a bit more difficult, but she has it under control.
“It’s hard sometimes but it’s manageable,” she said.
“My practices are at a good time and I have enough time to do my homework, though I don’t have much homework right now because I’m only in Grade 9.”
Right now, her main focus is continuing to get faster and through it all, she is grateful for everyone around her who is supporting and guiding – including her younger sister Georgia, who also is a swimmer.
Canadian Olympians Penny Oleksiak and Summer McIntosh are two accomplished swimmers who inspire her. But so are her “amazing” teammates.
“My teammates help push and motivate me to be a better and faster swimmer,” she said in a message to The Lake Report.
“It’s just so great to be able to train with so many amazing people.”