The RMC Paladins are sending a member of the swimming team to the Olympic Trials this week in Victoria, BC. Hanna Mountford, a Naval Cadet at the Royal Military College of Canada, qualified to race in the 1500m freestyle and 200m backstroke events.
Mountford has experience competing at a high level, having qualified for the Olympic Trials multiple times, according to a release from RMC. A child in a military family, she moved from her hometown of Halifax, NS, to England shortly after beginning to swim competitively at the age of six. When her family was posted back to Canada, Mountford made it to nationals and then qualified for the Olympic Trials at 12 years old.
“I don’t think I’m that nervous,” Mountford said of this year’s qualification. “I think I’m more excited.”
Now in her second year, pursuing a degree in Chemistry, Mountford was supposed to go to the Olympic trials again in grade 12.
“It was 2020; it was Tokyo,” she said. “I was pretty high ranked, like 10th or something, and I was so excited. I was qualified for six events, and then COVID hit.”
According to the release, after all the training and racing that had led up to that moment, including with her hometown Halifax Trojan Aquatic Club and Team Nova Scotia at the 2017 Canada Games, Mountford found the reality of the pandemic difficult to comprehend.
“It was hard mentally, wrapping my head around that I wasn’t going to Trials that year, because it was my dream,” she expressed.
Since joining the military and leaving home, Mountford’s training schedule has been forced to change. No longer having the freedom to train up to 10 times per week like her teammates in Halifax, Mountford has still done everything she could over the last two years to stay in shape, RMC stated.
During her first year of studies and the pandemic, Mountford attended the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean (CMRSJ), where she was able to get in the pool regularly, according to the release.
“CMRSJ was super supportive of me swimming,” she said. “We were stuck there, on campus, so just being able to do my sport was really great for my mental health.”
Mountford was due to arrive in Kingston and attend RMC to start her second year in September of 2021, but due to the pandemic, she attended classes remotely from home, where she was able to train once again with the Halifax Trojans.
Due to her dedication to finding places to train, regardless of her circumstances, when Mountford finally set foot on the RMC campus in January, she was already in shape and ready to race, the military college said.
Having dropped in the rankings to 20th, Mountford is swimming strategically this week, and will only compete in her best event: the 200m backstroke, which will take place on Saturday, Apr. 9. RMC said that when she gets in the pool this weekend, she knows she’ll be swimming against the best in Canada and the best in the world.
“I have a chance to race against four-time Olympians, who might be in my heat,” Mountford said. “Some of these girls I’ve looked up to for years, and I get to race with them, which is astonishing.”
With realistic expectations, while still hoping to put up a personal best (PB) time, RMC said that Mountford also knows this opportunity is a chance to showcase more than just the individual talent of a future Naval Warfare Officer.
“My goal is to make a B Final, PB, and have a good experience and represent RMC at the same time,” she said. “I think it’s really cool to show that RMC has a lot to offer. It’s not just military and just academics; we have a lot of good sports and a lot of good athletes too. Being able to bring that to the national stage, and show how good our athletes are, is really awesome.”