Smiths Falls swimmer looking to make a splash in Tokyo

Bailey Andison: Olympian. It’s something the 23-year-old swimmer from Smiths Falls still isn’t used to hearing.

“It still feels pretty surreal to hear it,” says Andison. “You dream about it your whole life and then within a weekend it becomes a reality.”

Andison is set to compete at Tokyo 2020 in the 200-metre individual medley. She has won medals for Canada at the Pan American Games in 2019 in Lima, and represented her country at the 2017 Universiade in Taipei.

Andison also swam collegiately at the University of Denver and Indiana University, but says representing her roots means the most.

“It feels even better that I came from a small community and a small town,” the 23-year-old tells CTV News Ottawa. “It makes it all the more meaningful to me.”

Anyone who knew Andison growing up shouldn’t be surprised that swimming has taken her from Smiths Falls to Tokyo.

“When I was 5 or 6 years old, my mom says I used to introduce myself like, ‘Hi I’m Bailey, I’m going to go to the Olympics for swimming.’ And she had to explain to me that it’s not just a decision you make, you don’t just decide you’re going to go to the Olympics. You have to work really hard.”

And work hard she did. All the more reason why she’s not going to let a pandemic ruin her Olympic experience.

“Obviously I think everyone who’s going to the Games, especially for the first time, pictured it a bit differently. I don’t think it takes away from it at all. We’re going to have fun, we’re going to make the most of it.”

With the pandemic, that means no fans will be in attendance at the events. Andison says it’s disappointing, but once she is up on the blocks before the race starts she is zoned in on her performance, and her breaststroke, which she says is her strongest.

But despite no one in the stands, Andison knows she has an entire cheering section back in Smiths Falls.

“I just owe so much thanks to everyone involved in my Olympic journey. Every teammate I’ve had, every family member, friend who’s cheered me on, who’s helped me get to practice, to meets. This is just as much their success as it is mine, so just thank you.”