UPDATE: Rivard qualified for the Paralympics and is preparing to represent Canada in Rio this September.
TORONTO – This time last year, Aurélie Rivard was training under the radar for a double installment of international competition.
Thursday night at the Canadian Paralympic trials, the now World Champion and Parapan Am gold medalist was busy meeting the expectations that come with her new star status.
After winning the 200m Individual Medley at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, Rivard chatted about what has changed in light of her achievements in 2015.
“I have a lot more confidence than I had before,” said the 19-year-old. “Ever since 2012, I wanted to be World Champion, to win gold but I didn’t know if I could because I hadn’t done it before.
“So now that I have I know I can do it again.”
Rivard swam 2:35.99 to secure a Paralympic qualifying time and all but guarantee her spot on the plane to Rio for September’s games. The final team will be announced on Sunday after the trials are complete.
“I’m swimming over my expectations, actually,” said the Québec native. “I didn’t think I was going to swim this fast, considering all the circumstances now with my health.”
Rivard, who won a record seven medals at the Parapan Am games in Toronto last summer, has been dealing with stiffness in her upper body following her swim in the 400m freestyle on Tuesday.
Swimming Canada’s female para-swimmer of the year in 2014 and 2015 was only 16 years old the last time she competed in the Paralympic trials. Four years on, she’s an established star and acknowledges the experience is a little different this time round.
“I’m much more aware of what’s going on,” said the 100-m freestyle world record holder. “Four years ago I was so young. I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was.
“Of course I have a lot more pressure now but it’s a lot more exciting because I can enjoy it, I know what’s it is like, I’ve been there.”
Rivard is competing as the top seed in multiple events this week at the Sports Centre in Scarborough, including the 100m backstroke on Saturday and the 100-m freestyle on Sunday. The S10 classified swimmer is relaxed about spending so much time in the pool.
“I have a little routine to get physically and mentally ready,” said Rivard, who hails originally from St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu. “But I don’t like to be too focused because when I’m left alone with my thoughts it’s not a good thing.”
“I’m still pretty social, I talk to my rivals and my teammates before the race.”
If Rivard builds on the silver medal she won in the 400-metre freestyle at 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and returns from Rio with gold, there will be more than her teammates vying for her attention.
Follow Ciarán on Twitter @keep_score