When Brent Hayden was asked which swim club he would like to shoot a commercial with, and bestow with gifts of boxes of free swimming merchandise for the kids, it was a no-brainer.
So, on Thursday afternoon, as the Mission Marlins were finishing up practice, they got a visit from the club’s favourite son.
They all knew him on sight, and excited screams echoed through the Leisure Centre when Hayden walked onto the deck. Even a four-year-old, who has only been a Marlin for about a month, pointed to the mural of Hayden painted on the wall, and asked if that was him.
The kids held a mini-meet, racing against the Olympian who is their icon. And the 2007 world champion freestyler mingled with them and talked to them like he was still a Mission Marlin. He was with the club from 1989 to 1999.
“He’s a big role model to the club – really inspirational,” said 16-year-old Kiefer Ziefflie, who has been a Marlin for 12 years.
Swimoutlet is an online retailer that uses this publicity model in the U.S., bringing high-profile Team USA swimmers together with youngsters. In the next week or two they will begin shipping directly to customers in Canada.
They approached the high-profile Hayden about participating in an event in Canada. He lives in Vancouver and trains at UBC, but his first thought was of his old club.
“I was: ‘You’ve got to have the Mission Marlins involved in this,'” he smiled, after handing out bags with goggles, towels and other Swimoutlet merchandise to the kids, signing autographs, and spending time with the kids.
“It was straight-up fun,” he said.
He also talks to the kids about reaching their goals.
“Each and every one of them has the potential to do something great.”
It was a break in the routine for Hayden, who is getting ready for his next meet. That will be the Santa Clara International Invitational, where he will face one of the most successful swimmers of all time in American Michael Phelps. Hayden beat him in Santa Clara in 2009, and says “I’m hoping to do that again.”
He said he is healthy, feeling good, and working toward the World Aquatics Championships on July 16-31 in Shanghai, China, and ultimately another Olympics appearance, in the 2012 Games in London.
The promotional video that was shot in Mission will be seen on the swimoutlet.com website in four to six weeks.