The Dinos swim team rekindled their rivalry with the reigning Canadian Interuniversity Sport champions, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, in Vancouver last weekend. Since there were no overall team scores, the exhibition competition did little to clarify any predictions on who will bring home the 2008 CIS title.
Although head coach Mike Blondal acknowledged it was difficult to judge their position vis a vis the T-Birds, he remained optimistic that the top performances by the Dinos--including a domination of the freestyle sprint events--bode well for restoring the national honour to the Dinosty.
Yet, amidst the early season racing and the intensive recruiting of Vancouver-area swimmers, it was evident that the greatest rivalry was not the inter-team rivalry. Rather, the arch-rivals on deck are Dinos co-captains Hania Kubas and Katy Murdoch.
A week after American sensation Natalie Coughlin broke the 100 metre backstroke world record in Singapore, Murdoch and Kubas finished first and second place respectively in the same event. Murdoch eclipsed her teammate's time by a mere couple tenths of a second.
"Katy [Murdoch] is my biggest adversary in the CIS this year," Kubas admitted. "It will likely be the two of us battling it out for the top spot in the 100 back[stroke], which will be different from past years."
Murdoch added that competition at the Dinos camp is steep.
"The field has narrowed this year because national team members Caitlin Meredith, Kelly Stefanyshyn graduated and Canadian recordholder Erin Gammel retired," she said.
In last year's CIS championship field, Murdoch took the silver medal in a time of 1.00.35, while Kubas was, again, edged off the podium in a time of 1.01.12. This year, varsity competition will likely resemble last weekend's Murdoch-Kubas duel. Both women have lofty visions of CIS gold in the backstroke events and Murdoch is on the hunt for a Canadian record.
Still, facing your greatest opponent in day to day training can be toiling.
"At times, it can get very frustrating when Katy is having a better practice and is beating me," Kubas said.
Obviously, both women put up a fight before letting any bragging rights slip.
The co-captains, however, realize the merits of their situation.
"In the long run, I think training is more exciting," Kubas said. "An advantage to training with Katy is that I more or less know her strengths and weaknesses when it comes to racing."
"I find having Hania in my group very beneficial because we both push each other to be better swimmers," she said.
Unlike the UBC-Calgary rivalry, Kubas and Murdoch's rivalry is friendly. It's simply one more thing both women share. They are co-captains, friends and teammates as well as former national team members and both are looking at the coveted spots on the 2008 Olympic team. Murdoch has accolades, such as CIS rookie of the year, to her name, while Kubas, as a youngster, held numerous Alberta provincial records. They even share the right genetics. Murdoch is the daughter of former NHL star and Kubas is the daughter of a Polish Olympic diver.
Although both women are leading a team against the rest of the CIS, when it comes to their individual swimming ambitions, they are inevitably focused on one another.