Know Your Athlete, Sports

Know Your Athlete: Isabel Sarty

February was a busy month for varsity swimmer Isabel Sarty. At the RSEQ provincial championships over the weekend of Feb. 3, the Martlet won gold in her three individual and three relay events and was named RSEQ female athlete of the year. Later that month, she competed at the U Sports championship, earning a bronze medal in the 50-metre fly. 

These achievements are only a few drops in the pool of Sarty’s exceptional six-year varsity swimming career. During her undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University, Sarty won a total of 20 provincial Atlantic University Sport (AUS) medals and broke the AUS records for women’s 50 and 100-metre frees. Outside of the pool, Sarty completed a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience at Dalhousie and began a master’s in neuroscience at McGill in 2021, all while dominating in the water. 

This season, one of the swimmer’s proudest achievements was breaking her personal records in some of her strongest races. Sarty noted that improving her best time by 0.09 seconds in the 100-metre free—her favourite race—at the RSEQ championship was a highlight of her season. These new personal records came as a welcome surprise to Sarty, given that her fastest swims were from 2020, immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to her training. 

“[I] never thought that I would get back to the shape that I was in undergrad,” Sarty told The McGill Tribune. “Now I’ve had the busiest schedule of my life so far, and the fact I could still swim better than I have in all the previous years was just such a personal accomplishment.”

Sarty’s interest in swimming began when her parents enrolled her in lessons at a public pool in her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her parents saw swimming as a practical skill first and foremost, given that the family grew up beside the Atlantic Ocean. The sport came naturally to Sarty, who joined a summer swim team at the same pool at just six years old. She noted that these formative experiences instilled in her a love of swimming that has endured throughout her varsity career.


“My parents kind of fostered this idea that as long as you just work hard and have fun, then that’s all that matters [….] Since I started in a type of swimming that was relaxed […] it’s always been a part of my life that’s an outlet instead of a big stressor.”

– Isabel Sarty to the mcgill tribune

Sarty believes the positive atmosphere that her teammates and coaches fostered at McGill has kept the sport fun throughout her training. From competitions to pottery painting sessions to a trip to Puerto Rico for training camp over the winter break, team outings have been a memorable part of Sarty’s McGill swimming experience. The sense of camaraderie among the team was an important source of motivation for Sarty, especially given her busy schedule.

“If it wasn’t a fun environment to go to, I would not be walking down to the pool every day, and every morning,” Sarty said. “The support and happiness I feel at the pool has been […] life-changing.” 

The U Sports competition marked Sarty’s final varsity swim meet, as she plans on graduating this coming summer. But she stressed that the memories of her teammates and what she’s learned along the way will endure long after her final practice at Memorial pool. 

“I think [swimming] has really helped me […] in terms of goal setting, and just knowing that I can always push the limits of my goals,” Sarty said. “If I set my sights on something that might seem a little bit lofty or be a little bit far-fetched, I know that if I work hard and do the right steps and just stay really committed to my goals, swimming’s taught me that I know I’ll get there.”

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