February: Yuri Kisil

February: Yuri Kisil

U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Month: UBC Olympian Kisil ‘The Missile’ a national champion with Thunderbirds


By Austin Stanton, U SPORTS Swimming Correspondent


The Missile has landed at the top of the mountain.

Last month, Canada West superstar and Rio Olympian, Yuri Kisil put on a standout performance at the U SPORTS Swimming Championships, winning six gold medals in three individual and four relay events, while smashing a quartet of meet records in the process, as UBC swept the men’s and women’s championship banners.

The medal haul at the national meet has earned the Thunderbird swimmer U SPORTS Male of the Month honours for February, capping a successful second season with UBC after competing in four events at the Rio Olympics over the summer. 

Kisil’s Olympic training regimen would have had most people ready to throw in the towel after a day. For about a year, he was in the water nine times a week, lifting weights twice, and doing three dryland workouts for a weekly total of 25 hours.

After such an intense schedule training for Rio, you might think Kisil would taper down his workout regimen to make adjusting to life as a varsity athlete a little bit easier.

No chance. Kisil continued to train 25 hours a week. The only difference this year was that he had to hit the library.



This season for the Thunderbirds, Kisil had a rather large impact. His teammates, coaches, and competition all expected big things from the Olympian coming into the season, and he delivered.  In November, he helped UBC win the Canada West Championships, and set a conference record in the 50-metre freestyle along the way. Then in December, Kisil won a bronze medal at the 2016 FINA world short course championships in Windsor, Ont.

In order to live up these expectations, there are times when Kisil has to put his social life on the backburner, something he’s been comfortable with since he was a teenager in high school.

“You just have to pick and choose your battles,” said Kisil. “Some Friday nights I will go out, but if you’re a man at night, you have to be a man in the morning.”

In other words, if he enjoys a night out with his friends, Kisil still has to show up to the pool at 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning, no matter how he’s feeling. More often than not, he passes on his friend’s invitations.

“Now I kind of have a rep to hold up,” said the arts major. “I want to go and do really well. It’s not worth sacrificing that for a night of fun.”



In addition to wanting to perform in the pool, Kisil had another goal for this season: helping his fellow Thunderbirds any way he could.

Having competed at numerous major international meets the past couple years, Kisil felt he had something to offer his teammates other than stroke advice.

“I’ve been under high stress situations, so I’ve learned how to deal with that,” said Kisil. “Being there for my teammates is my biggest goal.”

UBC’s head coach, Steve Price, echoed Kisil’s statement about what the young Albertan brings to the team  after his Olympic experience.

“He’s a real positive guy, who has a good perspective on swimming,” said Price. “Just having him around (has) a good calming effect, especially on our rookies.”

In addition to seeing success in his individual events, Kisil was a member of the Canadian men’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay team that placed seventh at the Games, while also setting a new U SPORTS record in the 4x200-metre freestyle relay at the national meet by a full second.  In addition, his career includes competing at the 2014 Commonwealth and Pan Pacific Games, as well as a Pro Swim Series meet in Austin Texas earlier this season. Price is glad to have a member of his team with an international pedigree.

"Having Yuri, who has had some success internationally in both his individual events and his relays, with relays being a big part of university swimming, (is) huge," he said.

Kisil will resume his international duties not far from UBC, as he looks to secure a spot on Team Canada for the upcoming FINA world championships at the Canadian Swimming Trials in Saanich, B.C., Apr. 6-9.

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