Sometimes you’ve got natural talent. Sometimes you’ve got skill achieved through years of discipline and dedication. Sometimes it just runs in the family genes.
Or, if you’re 16-year-old swimmer Cole Pratt, you’ve got them all and are already shattering ceilings under the guidance of Olympic coach Dave Johnson. Pratt and Johnson are the pride of Cascade Swim Club in Calgary, and the young prodigy just made waves by being named to the senior national team as a junior.
“It’s good to know that not many people in Canada are faster than you. I can look ahead and see that I’ll probably be better than a lot of people, so that’s always fun,” said Pratt.
“It’s pretty great, actually. Going into the meet, I knew I would be in the top two, but I didn’t think I would actually make the senior team. But I swam the morning swim and felt really good and just missed my best time. Then I was talking with my coach and he said I could probably make it, so that’s what I was shooting for.”
Pratt is currently taking part in the 2019 Speedo Western Championships in Edmonton this weekend, then will be preparing for the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwanju, Korea, with some mixed stops at junior competitions and otherwise sprinkled throughout. Beyond that, Pratt has aspirations of making the 2024 Canadian Olympic team.
“We have sort of a team coaching structure that involves a lady by the name of Ildi Deliu, my wife Wendy, who is a former national team swimmer, and myself. He’s been under our wing for the last five years,” said coach Johnson.
“He’s one of these kids that shows up for practice every day. I don’t mean just attempt to practise, but he’s really ready to do the work and pay attention to the detail. He has great energy and a sort of spirit about what he does. I think he has some pretty big aspirations for down the line and this is a pretty big step towards realizing some of those bigger goals.”
“He’s very much a student of the sport. His family is a very sporting family. His father Jasen is an international swimmer from Canada and his uncle is Nolan Pratt, who played for (the NHL’s) Tampa Bay (Lightning), Colorado Avalanche when they won Stanley Cups. I think he’s a coach with the Avalanche right now, so he’s like an enemy.”
Pratt achieved his status on the senior national team through his performance at the Canadian Swimming Trials in Toronto, where he became the youngest male member of the team to qualify. The event itself was the 200-metre backstroke, where Pratt finished second and set the eighth-fastest time in the world through 2019 thus far for males in his age category. Not too shabby, huh?
“I think it’s quite uncommon, particularly on the men’s side of things. They tend to be more around 18 to 29 to 30. One of the big objectives was to try to have him qualify for the World Senior Championships this year as a 16-year-old, which is very, very unusual, but he managed to do it. He’s also going to be going to the World Junior Championships and there’s quite a few other events he’s going to be competitive in,” said Johnson.
Pratt’s also got two sisters who have experience in the swimming game. Halle Pratt, Cole’s older sister, is a national competitor in synchronized swimming. You would think being surrounded by the sport at all times that Cole would have just gravitated towards it naturally, but apparently that wasn’t the case.
“It wasn’t really my choice. My parents are both coaches, so we were always at the pool. They just put us in,” said Pratt.
That decision ended up being a good one, as Pratt is pushing the boundaries for the sport amongst his age group, and will look to try to continue to do so with Johnson by his side.
“I’ve known Dave ever since I started swimming. He’s sent a lot of people to the Olympics, so having him as a coach has been really helpful,” said Pratt.
“He’s really experienced, not only as a coach, but from when he was a swimmer. He always has really great stories to help motivate me.”