Ashton swimmer Regan Rathwell to make Olympic debut in Paris

Photo by Andrea Edmonds-Read

Twenty-year-old swimmer Regan Rathwell is all smiles as she poses outside of her alma mater, Carleton Place High School, with a sign wishing her well on her upcoming trip to Paris.

The Ashton native will make her Olympic debut this summer after qualifying in the Olympic Trials in Toronto last week, coming in second in the women’s 200m backstroke event.

“I’m just really honoured…it’s so special”, Rathwell shared with Lanarkist in a phone interview on Thursday.

Heading into the trials, Rathwell was ranked fifth in the event. She finished second, behind four-time Olympic medal winner Kylie Masse, clocking a personal best time of 2:09.38 – one second under the Olympic qualifying time.

“It was definitely a surprise… I went in with no expectations, just for the fun of it.” Rathwell said.

Rathwell’s journey to this achievement has been marked by challenges. Now entering her third year at the University of Tennessee, she has faced obstacles and struggles over the last two years in her otherwise distinguished swimming career. Pool closures during COVID-19, a broken foot, a concussion, and undergoing four surgeries in the last 14 months, including a surgery on each of her shoulders to repair torn labrums, have made training at her usual intensity a challenge. Yet, Rathwell’s determination has been unwavering. She returned to the collegiate competition in November 2023 and qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 100-yard backstroke earlier this year.

Regan now studies in Knoxville, Tenneessee but fondly remembers her local roots and her start at swimming. The Rathwell family enrolled their two daughters in numerous sports in Carleton Place, but it was during a swimming lesson that an instructor suggested Regan join the Carleton Place Water Dragons swim team, where she swam until joining the Greater Ottawa Kingfish.

When asked what keeps her going in swimming, Rathwell credits her awesome coaches and trainers, but says her family are her biggest supporters.

“My parents’ schedules revolved around our sports schedules and taking us to practices. God bless them” she said with a laugh. Rathwell also spoke of the incredible support from her sister, who drove from Ottawa to Toronto for the day to support Rathwell during the Olympic trials. “She encourages me to keep going and gave me a big hug after [the Olympic Trail].”

The community response to Rathwell’s success has been overwhelming. In addition to the banner of support outside of Carleton Place High School, she’s received numerous kind messages from community members and was surprised with a congratulations party thrown for her by her sister and local friends.

Rathwell represented Canada at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships where she was a finalist in 200m backstroke. She was also awarded bronze in the 400m IM event at the 2017 Canada Summer Games when she was just 13 years old – the youngest member of Team Ontario.

As she heads to Paris, Rathwell carries the pride and support of her community with her ready to make her mark on the Olympic stage.

“I’m looking forward to the whole experience and hoping to stay healthy to train well over the next couple of months. My goal is just to be better than I was the last time.”

Interested community members can tune in to the Olympic coverage this summer to cheer Rathwell on as she competes.

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