When Alex Babaris retired from swimming over two years ago, he left the sport unsatisfied; with the feeling he didn't achieve his full potential.
Swimmer finds satisfaction in comeback at East Nationals
That's why the 25-year-old Masters student, coach and athlete decided to capitalize on an opportunity to make a competitive comeback last year. This past weekend at the Eastern Canadian championships in Montreal, Babaris won a silver medal in the 50-metre butterfly and came within an eye lash of another podium finish in the 100 butterfly. He qualified for next year's Olympic trials.
''Those were my fastest times in awhile in those events so I was really happy about that,'' said Babaris. ''I love the sport so much these are the feelings I want to have when I race. To know I had performances I can be happy with. Not leave wondering what if.''
Babaris decided to retire in 2004 after finding it difficult to focus on his training. He was chest-deep in university studies and his father had also passed away. Babaris initially studied and raced at Trent University in Peterborough where Iain MacDonald was the coach.
When MacDonald moved to the national capital to become head coach with the Greater Ottawa Kingfish he invited Babaris to join his staff. Then Babaris through consultation with MacDonald made the commitment to race again at the highest levels in the sport. That makes for a busy life these days for Babaris. Generally his days start at 5 a.m. and don't conclude until late in the evening. Besides training, he is pursuing a Masters in European and Russian studies at Carleton, coaches 21 Age Group One kids (age eight to 14) at the Orléans Recreation Complex and University of Ottawa and is even registered in night classes. ''Coaching with the Kingfish has been tremendous for my personal development,'' he said. ''I've learned so much from the people at the club. They've given me a lot of confidence and certainly coaching is a potential career option for me.''
Babaris' comeback is not about going to the 2008 Olympics. His main goal is to perform to his best at the Olympic trials next year. ''My chances of qualifying for the Olympic team are remote,' said Babaris, who would need a top-12 world ranking to go to Beijing. ''But it's always nice to have that dream.'' -- Louis Daignault