RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Aurelie Rivard may have won Canada’s first gold medal of the Paralympics with a world record time, but she lost something in the process.
“When I touched the wall I lost 25 pounds of stress.”
Coming into Fridays 50m S10 freestyle, the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. native was the gold medal favourite, especially considering she set a Paralympic record in her heats. As the person to beat at these games the pressure was on for the young Canadian but you would never have guessed after her world record setting performance of 27.37.
“I was really, really nervous cause it was the ice breaker event for me,” she said. “The 50 is so short, you do one mistake and you’re done, so I didn’t know what to expect from myself and my rivals as well, so it was pretty stressful”
Rivard sees herself as her biggest competition and coming into the 2016 Paralympics, her goal was to worry about herself, and try and beat her own times. As the reigning world champion in multiple events and already a world record holder, if she does this gold is the likely outcome. Fridays final was no different.
“I really wanted to win this one so I couldn’t be happier”
The 20 year-old is competing in her second games but as a power on the international swimming stage even her coach, France Latendresse, acknowledged that this time around the expectations were higher.
“There was a lot of pressure because she is a multi-medalist,” Latendresse said. “We have to go one at a time and we’ll see what’s going to happen.
The ice-breaker is over with, and while the nerves may not be totally gone, Rivard still has four more big races, for the moment she is concentrating on the excitement of her most recent accomplishment before she prepares for her next race.
“I’m having such a mix of emotions when I got out of the pool,” she said unable to stop smiling. “Even on the podium I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry, or I feel like I was going to throw up, or jump everywhere.”
It is easy to get lost in the moment, especially with the amazing Brazilian fans raining down cheers, but the second time Paralympian knows what she needs to do here in Rio.
“I’m going to go back and eat and sleep well cause I race tomorrow, and remind myself that its just started, it’s not done, my job is not done at all.”