With her gold medal on Monday in the women’s 50-m freestyle, Aurélie Rivard continued her wave of success that keeps her on track to one day reach the legendry status of such Para swimming stalwarts such as Benoit Huot and Stephanie Dixon.
It all started for Rivard back in 2010, when she emerged on the world championship team at age 14. As a 16-year-old at the 2012 Paralympic Games, she was part of Canada’s youth movement that included Katarina Roxon and Morgan Bird. In London, Rivard was a medal threat in every race she entered, and it culminated with a silver in the women’s 400-m freestyle.
She has five medals in two trips to the Paralympic Games, including three gold at Rio 2016, and Monday’s win was her 10th world championship podium finish, which includes two other victories in 2015.
Rivard, born with an underdeveloped left hand, is currently the world record holder in the 50, 100, 200 and 400-m freestyle S10 class.
Still on her schedule for London are the 100-m and 400-m free and the 100-m backstroke.
“I want to defend the titles I won in 2015,’’ said Canada's flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games. ‘’I also lost the 100 free by 0.1 seconds so I would like to win that one as well.’’
Since the Rio Paralympic Games, Rivard trains under Mike Thompson at the CHP-Quebec High Performance Centre in Montreal. She was discovered in her hometown by France Latendresse who coached Rivard for the first nine years of her career at the Centre de natation Haut-Richelieu in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
‘’It was a big change,’’ admitted Rivard about her move to Montreal. ‘’When I was younger, I needed to someone to tell me what to do and follow me very closely. Now with Mike we work more as a team, we both work on the program and we both give our opinion. We have a strong working relationship as coach and athlete. I find that approach really motivates me to go to the pool every day.’’
Her three gold and one silver performance at the Rio Games certainly widened the spotlight on Rivard.
''There’s definitely a before and after Rio,’’ she said. ‘’I received more visibility than before and I became a stronger voice for the movement. I enjoy speaking to younger people at schools. I hope I am someone they can look up to and get some inspiration from so they can live their dreams as well.’’
Still only 23, and nearly a decade of competition under her belt, Rivard shows no signs of slowing down.
‘’It’s getting harder but I still have a love for sport, for high performance and swimming. There’s a lot to learn and I still have the passion. I think the day I lose those emotions it will be time to stop.
‘’There’s new wave of swimmers coming on who are faster than I was at their age.
‘’I have a lot of swimmers to keep an eye on.’’