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Lifeguard joins team set for South Africa

Gordon Heine is on his way to South Africa in September for the 2011 Commonwealth Pool Lifesaving Championships.

A former Fort Macleod Swimming Pool lifeguard is on his way to South Africa in September for the 2011 Commonwealth Pool Lifesaving Championships.
Gordon Heine, who was a lifeguard in Fort Macleod for three years during high school, is one of seven Team Alberta lifeguards who will compete in Durban, South Africa, having won the 2011 Canadian Pool Lifesaving Championships in Surrey, B.C., at the end of May.
Sponsored by the Lifesaving Society of Alberta, Team Alberta broke 23 provincial records and set three national records at the Canadian championships. The seven Team Alberta lifeguards make up fully a third of the Canadian Lifesaving Team of 20 athletes going to Durban.
Heine is ecstatic about the win.
“I feel just awesome,” Heine said. “I’m extremely happy with the results of the Canadian pool champs.”
This was the third year in a row that Alberta has won the Canadian title, and the second of which Heine has been a part.

Gordon Heine competing in the 2011 Canadian Pool Lifesaving Championships in Surrey, B.C.

Heine contributed toward the victory by helping Alberta set three records in relays.
The Commonwealth competition will involve various events that combine swimming skills and lifesaving techniques.
“We use tow ropes to clip onto and pull a manikin, we use flippers, there are gates we have to swim under, and ropes we have to throw to a swimmer,” Heine said. “My personal favourite event is the 50-metre manikin carry. You dive in and swim about 25 meters to a manikin at the bottom of the pool, bring him up, and tow him to the other side.”
“You’re racing seven other guys in a heat to see who can do a specific event the fastest,” Heine said. “Intuition and situation assessment aren’t really used. It’s all reaction time, fitness, strength and skill.”
Born and raised in Fort Macleod, Heine spent three summers lifeguarding at the local pool, and later was head lifeguard at Westminster Pool in Lethbridge for three seasons.
But it wasn’t until a back injury put an end to his pursuit of a swimming career that he actually got into lifesaving as a sport.
“I graduated from F.P. Walshe in 2007 and went straight to U of L,” said Heine, who is now 22. “I swam with the Pronghorns for two seasons, the first of which I was awarded MVP and Rookie of the Year. But the second season was unfortunately cut short due to a back injury, which essentially ended my competitive swimming career. After that I dropped out of school.”
It was then that a friend of Heine’s who competed in the lifesaving sport got Heine interested in it.
“He knew I had a swimming background, so he managed to convince me to go to a training camp. At the camp the coaches asked me to come with Team Alberta to the 2010 National Championships in Montreal. That was the first I’d ever heard of the sport. The idea of competing and racing again easily drew me in. I’ve been practicing and competing ever since.”
Heine now trains by himself in Calgary where he has developed his own training program specific to his needs and strengths. He still takes the occasional lifeguarding shift at the pool where he trains.
The Lifesaving Society of Alberta is an affiliate of the Lifesaving Society of Canada, a charitable organization that trains and certifies lifeguards.
Annually, more than 700,000 Canadians participate in the Society’s swimming, lifesaving, lifeguard and leadership training courses.