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Stay tuned for more information regarding the 2021-2022 TDSSAA Swimming season.
“I had some discussions, remember being warned and I knew the time had come where I had to make a change. It would be a change for the better.”
Kian Jalili, swimmer, York Mills Collegiate
By David Grossman
Decisions have to be made, and sometimes they don’t always go the way people expect.
To some, it’s a sign of life. To others, they see it as a choice to reflect, adjust and do something about it – if the outcome could mean so much.
Kian Jalili was in a similar situation, not long after coming to Canada from Iran with his family. The journey to an unfamiliar country involved settling first in Montreal and then shuffling off to Toronto. There was the task of learning to speak English, and also trying to settle in to a community, making friends, studies and more.
It was a huge challenge and required courage – even for Jalili, then a 14-year old.
Jalili chose to attend York Mills Collegiate, a school with a sound reputation that values active student life, encourages young people to join clubs and participate in extracurricular sports.
In grade 10, his first year at the school, Jalili – fond of swimming – almost got cut from the school team.
Professional or amateur athletes, take your choice, no one likes to be removed from a roster.
For Jalili, by his own admission, was not one designated for elite international competition. Swimming was a hobby, something he enjoyed and gave him a chance to socialize, improve and learn. Things happened.
“I was cocky back then, not a good leader and there was a need to work on discipline,” he said. “I had some discussions, remember being warned and I knew the time had come where I had to make a change. It would be a change for the better.”
Reflecting on his past, Jalili found adjustment to be hard. There was a language barrier and communication didn’t always go the way everyone had expected. Mis-understandings can occur. The same can be said with mis-characterizations.
It was after he had a chat with Rick Mahoney, guidance counsellor at York Mills and a member of the swim coaching staff, that things improved. Relationships prospered, camaraderie was good and tough times were replaced by humbleness and confidence.
“I tried hard, was motivated and Mr. Mahoney – he’s my mentor, always there for me and giving me more than I can ask for,” said Jalili. “I am very fortunate, he’s been fabulous.”
Now, in his graduating year at York Mills and a member of the school swim team, the 6-foot-1 Jalili is also benefitting in the pool with strong coaching from Koji Takahashi – as well as in practices by Mahoney. Having experience with the individual medley and butterfly events, Jalili has a preference to freestyle races.
“What a huge turn-around (by Jalili) and he deserves all the credit in the world,” said Takahashi. “That first time I saw him, he was fast in the water, but not disciplined. He irritated me and I couldn’t coach him. Now, he’s very respectful, tries so hard and has become one of the top five swimmers in the 200-metre freestyle in Ontario.”
The York Mills coaching staff admit Jalili “has become one of the hardest working swimmers and a real team leader”. In morning team training and practices, Jalili leads lanes in workouts and is a huge motivator to getting swimmers inyo the pool.
In the pool, he’s also leading by example. At the 2020 Toronto District School Board regionals, Jallili won three gold medals and a bronze. Then, at the Toronto District Schools Athletic Association citywide championship, he added to his medal collection with a silver and bronze as well as fourth and sixth place finishes.
Back in Grade 10, Jalili had a personal goal of making it to the Ontario (OFSAA) championship before moving on to pursue studies in university. That came true, this year, as he qualified for two individual events as well as two more as a member of York Mills relay teams.
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David Grossman is a veteran award-winning Journalist, Broadcasterwith some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 40+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.