Big splash catches eye of universities

BRIAN BAKER/TOWN CRIER OFSAA gold medalist Matthew Dodig is headed to Notre Dame to pursue his dream of competitive swimming.
OFSAA gold medalist Matthew Dodig is headed to Notre Dame to pursue his dream of competitive swimming.

De La Salle’s ‘golden boy’ swimmer does everything right

For the last two years Matthew Dodig’s goal was to get a gold medal in swimming before graduating from De La Salle.

The Oaklands golden boy did just that at OFSAA in early March at the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club, with a time of 25.08 seconds in the 50-metre freestyle, open division and 55.00 seconds in the 100-metre freestyle, open division.

Those times, for a swimmer who has only been training hard in two years have caught the eyes of University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

His Del coach, Aaron Calder, couldn’t be more happy to see one of the strongest athletes in the school’s recent history get picked up by a university Stateside.

“Most people have to train a lot longer, at a serious level, to come close to those times,” he said, of Dodig’s OFSAA scores. “He’s got a lot of potential.”

What makes his times more impressive is De La Salle doesn’t have a pool.

The school rents Jarvis Collegiate’s cement pond, and the team gets only two one-hour practices in a week.

“All I can do with the kids with that amount of training during the season is I do a lot of skill — strokes, dives and turns,” Calder said. “You can’t do a whole lot beyond that.”

Still, Dodig, who joined the team as a lark when he was in Grade 9, picked up the skills fast — with very little experience. He qualified for OFSAA that year, and went on to win bronze medals in Grade 10 and Grade 11 in freestyle races.

His prowess in the pool has also earned him a threepeat in Athlete of the Year honours from De La Salle.

“He basically picked up more sessions on his own,” Calder said. “This kid basically trained himself outside of school.”

Dodig is humble with his abilities, sharing that swimming was just an interest. Though he also partakes in cross country, the 1500-metre race in track, and shot put, he gave up competitive badminton for swimming, and it has paid off with a scholarship.

But Notre Dame wasn’t his first choice. Boston College also came calling.

“I visited both schools, assessed it and decided Notre Dame was the better school for me for a couple of reasons.” Dodig said. “One was because they have good business school there and two, they have this program — I could swim at the varsity level at Boston College — but I’ve decided to register myself at Notre Dame and swim on essentially the farm team there.

“I’ll be going to U.S. Open and Grand Prix meets as opposed to the NCAA meets, and then I’ll move up after a year. I want to adapt to the amount of training that I do.”

Before he can heed the call coming from Notre Dame, he’ll be spending a month in Prolog, Croatia living at the home his family built, and working at a hotel.

He won’t neglect his training, though.

“We built a lap pool so I can train there as well,” he said, adding he’ll be training with Hrvoje Simunovic, a member of the Croatian junior water polo team.

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