Eight-year Kelowna AquaJets’ veteran Josh Zakala has achieved the next milestone in his swimming career by joining Canada’s elite team at the High Performance Centre in Victoria.
Zakala, 17, will move to the B.C. capital on Feb. 1 to train under head coach Ryan Mallette, who currently coaches Canada’s best distance swimmer, two-time Olympic medalist, Ryan Cochrane.
Josh will travel with the national team to Florida in March in preparation for the 2016 Olympics trials in Toronto this April.
Since 2008, Zakala has represented the AquaJets locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.
“Josh has been a dedicated, passionate, and determined member of our team,” says Gary Desrosier, Kelowna AquaJets Board President. “Josh holds an unprecedented 87 club records, has been the recipient of many club awards including swimmer of the year, and has supported our club as a top fundraiser and team leader.”
Local highlights include being a four-time, top-three finisher in the Across the Lake Swim, including the being the overall winner in 2014.
Zakala was a finalist for the Civic Award for Male Athlete of the Year in 2013, and won the Pacific Sport Okanagan Athletic Excellence award that same year.
He holds the provincial 400m Individual Medley record in the 13-14 age group and, last summer, he brought home five gold, six silver and one bronze medal from the Western Canada Summer Games.
Nationally, Zakala has defended his Canadian Age Group 5 km Open Water title for the past five years and has been selected to several Junior National Teams, which has taken him across Canada and the U.S. to compete.
Zakala has also enjoyed success across the globe, competing in the 2011 International Children’s Games in Scotland, finishing 13th overall against the world’s best at the 2014 FINA Junior World Open Water Swimming Championships in Hungary, and being selected to the 2015 Canadian Youth Tour Team competing in Sydney, Australia.
Josh’s high standards and drive to be the best stretch far beyond the pool. With a 4.0 GPA, Josh plans on entering first year engineering at University of Victoria in September.
“I was blessed to have Peter Wilkins as my coach for the past five years and Emil Dimitrov for the first half of this season, as they both have taught me valuable lessons in and out of the pool,” says Zakala. “I’d like to thank everyone part of the KAJ family, as the pool has become almost like a second home to me. Without the support and encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”