|Memorial swim camp melting pot
6/30/2007 8:01:23 AM
By Parrish Alford
Honoring the memory of a son taken too soon is important, but it’s not the primary consideration for Randy Von Kanel in the coming days.
The Landon Von Kanel Memorial International Gold Medal Swim Camp, starting a week-long run on Sunday, will bring a mix of cultures to the pool at Rob Leake City Park.
It will also bring a successful international coach and Olympic swimmers.
“The story is international,” says Von Kanel, the pastor of First Baptist Church Tupelo. “It’s Mississippi and other countries coming together for fostering of excellence. That was Landon’s legacy.”
Dave Kelsheimer, the former Cayman national coach, who is now coaching in Australia, will conduct the camp.
He will be assisted by American Neil Walker, who won a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics, a bronze in 2004 and was a member of two gold medal relay teams.
Also instructing will be Australian silver medalist Nick Sprenger.
Landon Von Kanel swam for Tupelo Shockwave and Tupelo High School. He was 18 years old when he died in a car accident in October of 2001.
Randy Von Kanel was pastor of a church in the Cayman Islands during Landon’s early childhood. Landon became the Caymans’ first gold medal winner in international swimming competition.
For the small country with a little more than 40,000 residents, it was a starting point for impressive growth in the sport.
This is the 12th annual Gold Medal camp. It was held in Hattiesburg last year, the first time it’s been held in the states.
In addition to Mississippi swimmers, age 10 and up, who have recorded at least the baseline state qualifying mark in their event, the camp will include 39 swimmers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Caymans.
Randy Von Kanel is hoping the meet will become an annual event in Tupelo.
“When Landon won the first medal there was inspiration in the Caymans,” he said. “We have a great program in Mississippi, and we are trying to enhance that. I’ve seen what can happen with the level of coaching Dave brings, then you put two Olympians in the pool. ... It can bring an attitude of, ‘I can do it.’”
Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 6/30/2007