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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex hosts – and medals – at 2024 Ontario Lifeguard Championships




by Greg Layson

It can be debated whether lifeguarding is a sport. But what’s undeniable is lifeguards are athletic and among the most integral first responders in society.

  That was all on display Saturday in the pool and gym at the Essex Recreation Complex, which was the host facility for the 2024 Ontario Lifeguard Championships.

  Fifty-two competitors — all active lifeguards in their own municipalities — on 17 teams from across Ontario participated.

  Lifeguards were challenged in three areas: assessment, first aid, and rescue. Half the day was spent on dry land, in the gym, while the other half was spent saving “victims” in the pool and hot tub.

  Zak Kolasa is the Coach of the Essex Swim & Lifesaving Club, but he also competed and medalled Saturday, calling the situations “very realistic,” even if they were a little more chaotic than what might occur on any given day.

  “It's high stakes, it's quick moving, it's making sure you treat your victims” he said.

  That means a team of four would assess and treat several maladies at once, from third-degree burns to heart attacks to an eye injury and anaphylactic shock at a picnic table — all within about a five-minutes time frame.

  In the pool, lifeguards saved “drowning victims” and pulled weight dummies from the pool bottom.

  “We’re talking mass casualty situations, all the Hollywood and TV stuff you see where there are five or six victims at the same time. It's similar to that,” Kolasa said. “Yeah, we do some things differently, because at the end of the day, it's a sport.”

  Kolasa and Paige Jimmerfield won the two-person first aid event, while the Essex team of Sydney Pruyn, Amelia Pruyn, Rylee Livingston, and Anna Papanastisou did the same in the four-person event.

  The Essex Swim & Lifesaving Club finished second overall, behind Markham.

  “Our sport is the only sport that is humanitarian in its base,” Essex Manager of Recreation and Culture, Cynthia Cakebread, said. She is also part of the local lifesaving club. “We learn to help people first before we compete.”

  Cakebread, who has been involved with lifesaving events for 25-years, said it was nice to not have to travel for the championships and host for a change.

  Aidan Miess, the Support Manager for the Life Saving Society, said Essex earned its right to host.

  “We chose Essex because the Essex Swim and Lifesaving Club has been slowly growing over the last couple of years,” he said. “And it’s a really good venue for it.”

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