A freshman at Gulliver Schools, Cassandra Kraft has qualified for the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials set to take place in Toronto Canada on March 30th through April 5th. Born and raised in Pinecrest, Cassandra learned how to swim at a very young age in the Gulliver Swim School infant program and has been swimming ever since.
“There have been a lot of swimmers in my family; my mom, aunt, grandmother and all of my siblings,” said Cassandra. “Growing up I also played tennis and participated in gymnastics, but swimming is what stuck with me and it was my brother Jackson who inspired me to become competitive.”
In 2017 when Cassandra was a student at Gulliver Middle School, her older brother Jackson Leonard moved back to Miami after pursuing his master’s degree at Ohio State Univerity and returned to the Gulliver Swim Club as the Assistant Aquatics Director and Associate Head Coach.
“When my brother moved back to Miami, he helped me take my swimming to the next level and that is when I became inspired to compete,” said Cassandra. “I wasn’t that serious with swimming yet, but he encouraged me to go to practice every day and that dedication he instilled in me stuck.”
At the age of ten years old, Cassandra qualified for the Junior Olympic Games and quickly realized how powerful and rewarding it was to compete at that level.
“It was exciting because I was surrounded by kids my age competing and the atmosphere was a lot different than being at practice,” said Cassandra. “I realized then that I was serious about swimming.”
Five years later, Cassandra is now preparing to compete at the highest level of her swimming career at the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials.
Cassandra is able to compete in the trials due to her dual citizenship, as her mom was born in Canada and the policy is that children born to Canadians can claim citizenship.
“My brother and coaches have been working on a specific training plan with me that includes abs and weight room training and time in the pool,” said Cassandra. “My swim club team also has a set of championship meets leading up to the Canadian trials so the training is really important so that I can compete in those meets and also be rested for the trials.”
Cassandra will compete at the trials in the 50m freestyle sprint and her ultimate goal is to break twenty-five seconds and hit a twenty-four second time.
“That is what it is going to take to qualify,” said Cassandra.
The top swimmers from the trials will qualify for the Olympics. And at this level with everyone having what it takes, Cassandra knows she will have to swim fast.
To find the motivation to go fast, Casandra looks to her teammates, as they know first-hand what it feels like to succeed and what it feels like when you aren’t going fast enough.
“My teammates inspire me to go faster,” said Cassandra.
While she will be without the support of her teammates at the trials in Canada, she will have the support from her parents and brother Jackson, who will be traveling with her.
“My brother has really been there since day one of my swimming career, so it’s important to me that he will be my coach for the trials,” said Cassandra. “Anytime I feel like maybe I am not doing enough he tells me to set my focus on the next five minutes and make those five minutes the best I can, and when those five minutes are up, focus on the next.”
When Cassandra isn’t focused on swimming, she enjoys her science studies in school and is passionate about the environment. She a conservation student in the Fairchild Tropical Garden scholar program, a leader on her school’s green team and was the driving force behind the ban on plastic straws in Pinecrest.
As a part of her community project, Ditch Disposable, Cassandra presented her ban on plastic straws to the Village of Pinecrest Council. After a vote, the ordinance passed and went into effect at the beginning of 2019.
“The mission of my project was to reduce single-use waste in the Pinecrest community by submitting an ordinance to the council to ban the distribution, sale, and use of plastic straws,” said Cassandra. “I also got my swim team involved by setting up recycling bins at all of our swim meets.”
Cassandra will take that same passion to Toronto in April to compete on the highest stage of her swimming career. For more information on the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials, including schedule and results, please visit swimming.ca.