Tess Routliffe explores the world through Para swimming

Canadian Paralympic Committee

September 09, 2019

‘’I’m just looking at getting back to competing at the highest level of the sport.’’

Tess Routliffe swimming in the pool

Tess Routliffe’s parents were sailors, exploring the world by sea, before they eventually settled down to have children in New Zealand and install their roots in Canada. That curiosity to discover the world and experience life in various cultures has definitely trickled down to their three daughters.

The oldest of the three, Erin is a professional tennis player on the WTA Tour representing her native Kiwi land. Tara plays NCAA volleyball with the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky. The 21-year-old Tess is one of the stars on Canada’s national Para swimming team. She won the silver medal in the S7 200-m individual medley at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

‘’My two older sisters who are both super athletic as well,’’ said Tess, who moved to Canada from New Zealand at six months old. ‘’Both got full scholarships in the U.S. I tried every sport and I followed them. We are all supportive of each other. It’s nice having someone in the family doing a similar thing.’’

Since her heroics in Rio, Tess has not had an opportunity to show her talents on the world stage. The 2017 Para swimming worlds were postponed due the earthquake in Mexico and Canada was unable to participate. 

That gap between major meets means Routliffe is not putting pressure on herself in terms of results in London this week. These worlds are an opportunity to feel the field less than a year from the 2020 Tokyo Games.

‘’I like to keep my goals personal,’’ said the short stature athlete. ‘’That way I try not to think of podiums. You can look at my best times and can see where that can put me in the rankings but I don’t like to set that as an objective.

‘’I’m just looking at getting back to competing at the highest level of the sport.’’

The 200 IM is still Routliffe’s best event but she has worked hard on improving her breaststroke and butterfly races.

”I would like to see major improvements in the breaststroke,’’ she said. ‘’It’s my second best event and we’ve put a lot of work into it.’’

Routliffe is from Caledon, Ont., but now resides at the high performance training centre in Montreal with coach Mike Thompson. She had worked before with Thompson at training camps and major events and was familiar with the veteran coach’s style.

‘’ It was a big move,’’ she said about leaving for the big city. ‘’My sister moved out in grade 10 to go play tennis and we were both travelling a lot through high school so I already had a kind of sense of not being at home. It was easy to accept this is where I’m going to be. 

Once I got in Montreal, I felt at home and it is my home now. It was easier than I thought.’’

The medal in Rio confirmed for Routliffe that she had made the right decision to pursue a swimming career.

‘’My teammates are my best friends,’’ she said. ‘’We spend every day together, we train every day we go through highs and lows, they are the people that see you at every emotional level. I grew up trying to so many things and not finding where I was supposed to be. 

‘’Once I I got into swimming it was natural to me.’’


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