© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
Daniel Sparkes, a 16-year-old Level 2 student at Corner Brook Regional High, has been a swimmer with the Corner Brook Rapids Swim Club for several years.
CORNER BROOK Daniel Sparkes has been turning heads in the pool for a number of years because of his skillset, but itâs his leadership abilities as a young man thatâs really impressed coach Bruce Hamlyn.
Hamlyn is the head coach of the Corner Brook Rapids Swim Club that Sparkes has been a member of since he immersed himself in swimming as a kid.
Over the past few years, Hamlyn has watched Sparkes continue to develop into one of the top swimmers in his age group. Hamlyn said Sparkes has taken on a big leadership role with the team as one of the older kids on the block and thatâs pretty neat considering heâs only a teenager himself.
âHeâs just a team leader right now,â Hamlyn said earlier this week as the Rapids prepare to the hit the pool for the provincial short course championships this weekend in Gander.
Sparkes, a 16-year-old Level 2 student at Corner Brook Regional High, has no problems taking on a leadership role because he hasnât forgotten the swimmers who took him under his wing when he was a youngster trying to find his way in the competitive swimming world.
âWhen I was younger all the older guys would always help you and teach you stuff so now Iâm doing my part,â he said. âWhen youâre older you got to help the little kids out ... give them little tricks and tips on how to do better and have fun.â
It appears all the hard work, both in and out of the pool, has started to pay off for the son of Corner Brookâs Wendell and Sandra Sparkes.
Sparkes is the younger sibling of Memorial University of Newfoundland Sea-Hawks rookie Nicholas Sparkes who was a dominant force with the Rapids on the provincial scene before graduating from Corner Brook Regional High.
Only focused on what he can do to help himself be his best in the pool, comparisons are already being made between him and his older brother.
Hamlyn actually believes Daniel will be an even stronger swimmer than his MUN sibling. He believes Sparkes has the physical and mental capacity to take the sport to another level.
âHeâs the most physically capable person in our club,â coach said. âA really smart swimmer, doesnât mind putting the work in. Really heâs a great kid.â
Sparkes enjoys the competitive aspect of the sport and strives to get faster and stonger with each stroke. He is now in his second year competing in the 15 & Over age bracket so this year he believes will prove to be a tad more comfortable for him.
âI think Iâll be better fit for the age group,â Sparkes said.
âLast year was my first year in the older age group so Iâwas the youngest so I didnât do very good,â he added. âBut itâs my second year this time so Iâm hoping to do better.â
He remembers how he struggled to keep pace with the top swimmers in his age group at the Eastern Canadian Championships last year.
âI was going up against 19-and-20-year olds and they were just destroying me because Iâcouldnât handle their size and their speed. Iâjust kept trying to get up there to take them down,ââhe said.
In order to catch up, he said, the only thing to do is to keep working hard. Putting in a lot of hard work is the only way he can make that happen.
â(Iâm) always training hard and Iâm probably going to try to hit the gym more, but pretty much going to all the practices and trying to outdo everyone else,â he said.
While his work ethic will have a lot to do with the level of success he will achieve as an elite swimmer, Sparkes has had the support of the Rapids coaching staff throughout his development and this year he really appreciated the help of Hogan in this leg of the journey in his pursuit of excellence in the sport he calls his favourite.
âShe makes the sets kind of harder which makes you push more which makes you better,â he said.
He will be gunning for gold in the pool this weekend in Gander and admits winning is foremost on his mind because he doesnât like to lose.
âI think if Iâdo my best Iâll come out and win a couple of swims, but I just have to do my best really,ââhe said.
Early morning rises to join his teammates has become a way of life for the teenager, but itâs all good because heâs happy to have a chance to chill with his friends by hanging out at the pool. Time will tell how far Sparkes can go in the sport, but wearing the provincial colours on the national stage is something he hopes to bring to fruition one day.
His brother has represented the province at nationals before, so he wants his shot at it now.
âIâhavenât been to nationals yet because I havenât been fast enough, but Iâm trying to get to it,â he said.
âWhen my brother went you would look at the time sheets and you would see people your age with times that are insanely fast,ââhe said. âYou would look at 11-year-olds who are six-feet tall and monsters in the pool.â