MONTREAL – Aurélie Rivard, Canada’s Para swimming medal machine, measures success differently now that she is an established veteran in the sport working towards her fourth Paralympic Games.
Rivard, 26, and 17 other Canadian Para swimmers are in Melbourne, Australia this weekend for the season opening World Series stop which concludes a three-week camp for the team. Rivard is more concerned about her times at this point than her placements.
‘’The only thing I can control is my time,’’ said Rivard, a 10-time Paralympic Games medallist including five gold. ‘’If I win then that’s great and that’s important to me as well. I want to win, defend my titles and be an international force.
‘’But it’s not the only thing I focus on before a race.’’
Born with an underdeveloped left hand, the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. native reached two Paralympic Games under the colours of her hometown club. She took silver in the 400-m freestyle at age 16 at London 2012 but it was in Rio where she attracted the world’s attention: three gold medals (50-, 100-, and 400-m freestyle) and silver in the 200 IM.
All four times were Canadian records, including two world records (50, 400 free), and a Paralympic record (100 free).
Rivard was named Canada’s flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony in Rio and was a finalist for Canada’s Athlete of the Year.
“After Rio, when I reached about as high as you can get with world records, flag bearer, my objectives changed, they were more personal.
‘’That brought me a new motivation, another kind of pressure and a new experience.’’
She moved to Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre in Montreal in 2017 and a couple of years later she headed to Université Laval in Quebec City to study law and train under Marc-André Pelletier.
Despite the changes and all the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she collected five medals at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, held in 2021.
Rivard is currently studying law full time at Université Laval and is in her second year while maintaining her robust training schedule.
‘’I capitalized on the opportunity to study full time during the pandemic,’’ said Rivard, who would like to bring her law expertise to the sports world. ‘’It’s been a beneficial mental break from swimming and allowed me to have a balance between sport and studying.’’
Swimmers with top-four finishes at the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships were automatically selected to the Canadian team for the Melbourne event: Rivard, Nicholas Bennett of Parksville, B.C., Felix Cowan of Brossard, Que., Alex Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., Nikita Ens and Shelby Newkirk of Saskatoon, James Leroux of Repentigny, Que., Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., and Aly Van Wyck Smart of Toronto.
In addition, there is a group from the High Performance Centre in Montreal: Arianna Hunsicker, Danielle Kisser, Tyson MacDonald, Clémence Paré, Myriam Soliman, and Zach Zona. Also on the team are Jessica Tinney of Toronto and Jordan Tucker of Guelph, Ont.
The Melbourne event kicks off a Para swimming World Series season that will feature several competitions through the year. Races are scheduled this weekend from Friday to Sunday.