Mon, September 23, 2013

Alexandre Despatie is a family guy

Olympic diver draws inspiration from supportive parents

By ALAIN BERGERON, QMI Agency


Alexandre Despatie's mother Christiane Desjardins helps open Canada House in London, England July 27, 2012 ahead of the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic games. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)


LONDON - At an event to celebrate the grand opening of Canada’s Olympic House, the parents of one of the country’s most famous divers could have taken the floor and given their own definition of “family”.

When Aug.1 rolls around, Pierre Despatie and Christiane Desjardins will watch their son, Alexandre, take part in his fourth Olympic Games. Since families are the focus of the Canada House tradition, the success of Olympic medallist’s career shows the importance of family support.

“What’s important to us is seeing that our boy has become a man,” explains his father among Trafalgar Square’s hubbub. “Alexandre never wanted someone else to lift him to where he got. Of course, we cannot ignore how significant his career has become, but it seems he doesn’t fully realize how much of a symbol he is, seeing as the values he still holds dear are what we’re the most proud of.”

Canada watched as Alexandre Despatie grew up. Since his surprise gold medal in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, at age 13, he has been crowned world champion three times and Olympic silver medallist twice. This is the kind of story everyone loves, yet it never fouled the atmosphere of his Laval home. His parents took care that his older sister, Anouk, stood as tall as her famous brother.

“We raised them the same way, both with the same generosity. The family unit never broke,” his mother said.

“We couldn’t split it 50-50 every day”, Pierre said. “Some days, it was closer to 90-10. But you have to find a balance for your family, which became natural for us. Thank God. You can’t teach how to do this right. You just have to be there to support your children, that’s all.”

This closely knit family probably explains why Despatie learned to excel at major events, even after recovering from major knee and ankle injuries. Leading up to these Games, Despatie overcame a concussion suffered when he was knocked unconscious June 12 when his head hit the board during training in Spain.

“After all he’s been through, we’re just happy to see him here,” his mother said. “Alexandre always gave everything to reach his goals and we just had to accompany him. We just kept on telling him to persevere if he still enjoyed it. And above all, to be happy.”

The experienced diver is thinking about about acting on the silver screen. He certainly has the face for it. He also thinks about working in communications. His parents do not dwell on their son’s next career and won’t even say if these really are his last Olympic Games.

In London and in the Despatie’s life, the present is what counts, even if this is to be his last performance on the world’s biggest athletic stage.

“His last dive won’t be the most emotionally charged for me”, his father said. “Given what happened in the last weeks, it will rather be the first one.”