Ashton Baumann is not letting the pressure of his famous surname get to him.
Baumann, whose father Alex won two gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, is quickly making his mark in the pool. The 20-year-old is competing for Canada in his first world swimming championships and will hit the water in the 200-metre breaststroke, his lone event, on Thursday.
He will be looking to use the result to prepare for future success.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep improving and get on the (2016 Summer Olympic) team and get faster and faster,” said Baumann.
Already something of a world wanderer, Baumann will follow up on his first international appearance in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he placed seventh in the 200. But he is not letting early success inflate his ego.
“As far as I’ve come in short space of time, I have a long way to go to get anywhere, really, on the world stage,” he said.
Alex Baumann won gold in both the 200 and 400-metre individual medley at the Los Angeles Olympics in record times. His victory in the 400 ended an Olympic swimming gold drought for Canada that stretched 72 years.
The younger Baumann was born in Australia and has lived in Canada and New Zealand, where his family now resides, as Alex moved to different national sport administrator positions. Ashton Baumann has managed to qualify for elite international competitions despite only taking up swimming seriously around the age of 15.
“My dad being who he is, he didn’t really push me into the sport as such,” said Baumann. “He just wanted me to do something physically active, so I didn’t spend my time on the couch for my whole life.
“So I ended up choosing swimming when I actually moved to Canada in Ottawa.”
Baumann’s presence on the Canadian team in Barcelona is somewhat fortunate after he and Richard Funk of Edmonton tied, with an identical time of two minutes and 14.84 seconds during world championship qualifying.
Funk had already qualified in the 100 metres, so he opted not to take part in an impending swim-off, giving Baumann a berth in the worlds along with him.
Now Baumann’s famous surname, and quick success, are offering some star quality to a Canadian team that is rebuilding as another Olympic quadrennial begins. Canada is pinning its hopes at these worlds on mostly unknown young swimmers in both the men’s and women’s events.
Although many Canadian competitors have competed in Olympics and world championships, they have yet to contend for medals.
“He’s a bright prospect,” said Tom Johnson of Vancouver, part of the Canadian coaching contingent. “He’s got tremendous upside in terms of his competitiveness, and very good fire in terms of his mid-meet situations.”
But according to Johnson, who is serving under head coach Randy Bennett of Victoria, young Baumann still needs time to develop before he can emulate his famous father on a medal podium.
“He’s still got a lot of, I think, growing to do in the events that he’s swimming,” said Johnson.
Breaststrokers, added the coach, tend to be older in terms of being able to develop their full capacity and strength.
“But I think we’re hopeful that he’ll be a player in our team over the next couple years,” said Johnson. “He’s not quite there yet in his physical maturity. He’s only 20 years old. So he’s got time.”
Baumann is slated to live and train in Edmonton this fall while attending the University of Alberta.