A Kilbride teenager has swum the 50-metre butterfly race faster than any Canadian in his age group has done before — even outpacing prolific Olympic champion Michael Phelps when he was in the same age group.
Chris Weeks, 17, who swims with the Mount Pearl Marlins, swam in the FINA World Cup in Toronto last weekend, securing a time of 23.91 seconds.
The time is an unofficial Canadian record; the race can't be officially tracked since the 50-metre butterfly is not an Olympic discipline.
For comparison, Phelps — a 28-time Olympic medallist, including 23 golds — had a personal best of 24.1 seconds in the 15-to-17 age category.
"Michael Phelps is definitely an inspiration to a lot of swimmers, including myself," Weeks said Wednesday. "I think that it's amazing to be able to get on to that level, and I'm just happy that I'm headed in the right direction."
Weeks also made headlines at the Canada Summer Games in August, winning Newfoundland and Labrador's first gold medal in the pool since 1993. He also secured the medal in the 50m butterfly.
Weeks's swimming coach, Chris Roberts, said the teenager has come a long way in a short time since starting competitive swimming five years ago.
"About five years ago Chris walks on the deck and he jumped in with a group. We were just testing him, he couldn't swim half a length," Roberts said.
"Every situation that came around like a swim meet, he stood out. He loved to race.… He really has taken to the coaches really well, and the improvement and his trajectory through getting faster and being stronger as a swimmer through the program is amazing."
Weeks said he gravitates to the butterfly because of his love for speed, the fast tempo required to race the butterfly and the relaxing nature of being in the pool.
"I just love the feeling of racing, and it's not a really big injury sport," Weeks said. "A lot of people who love swimming find it very relaxing, and so do I."
Weeks is now shifting his focus to four upcoming national events, where he hopes to race against adults in the open swim category.
The pair say the future looks bright but there's still a long way to go.
"I know that I have much larger goals ahead of me, and this is only a step along the way," Weeks said.