Aurélie Rivard put down the greatest 100-metre freestyle performance in S10 swimming history on Saturday in Tokyo, breaking her own world record and busting Canada’s gold medal shutout for the 2020 Paralympic Games.
It was the second medal of the Tokyo event for the 25-year-old, who took home a bronze in the 50m freestyle S10, an event she won in Rio 2016.
After being disappointed with the result of her previous event, Rivard came out flying Saturday in her morning qualifying heat, smashing the global mark she originally set in 2015 of 59.17 seconds by posting a time of 58.60.
Rivard’s determination was evident as she outdid herself in the finals, remarkably finishing with a time of 58.14, well ahead of Chantalle Zijderveld (1:00.23) and Lisa Kruger (1:00.68), both of the Netherlands, to capture the gold.
“It’s probably one of the greatest swims of my life technically. Today is even more special than it should be, winning gold, especially coming from kind of a failure from me on day one,” said Rivard post-race. “I was expecting to win gold (in the 50 free), I’m not going to lie, and I didn’t.
“So to have been able to go through that and step up and give my best, especially with the year that we’ve had, with absolutely nothing in terms of competitions, it’s almost surreal that this moment is even happening. I just have a lot of emotions going through my head.”
The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec native started the race strong, and was in first place after the first 25 metres of the race but had Zijderveld hot on her heels. She picked up her pace after the 50 metre turn, and led the entire second half of the race to set the world record.
After having success as a 20-year-old in Rio 2016, Rivard is still adapting to being the swimmer that everyone is gunning for.
“I feel like I’m learning as I go through experiences,” she said. “I had never come into a Paralympic Games as the person who the girls want to beat.
“Even though I don’t have anything to prove to myself anymore, I always want to perform and be the best that I can be, better than I ever was. And I don’t want to get beat. Now that I’ve experienced winning, there’s no going back for me.”
In her third Paralympic games, Rivard, who trains at the Club de Natation Région de Québec in Quebec City, has now won seven medals, including four gold, two silver, and a bronze.
Canada’s flag bearer at the 2016 closing ceremonies, Rivard will be competing in three more individual events at the Games, including the 400m freestyle on Sunday, where she is the current world record holder and will be the defending champion.
She will also be part of the 4×100 freestyle relay.