Mon, September 23, 2013

Distractions can't stop Emilie Heymans

By REJEAN TREMBLAY, QMI Agency


Emilie Heymans (facing front) and Jennifer Abel celebrate winning bronze in the women's 3-metre synchronized diving during the London 2012 Olympic Game, July 29, 2012. (TOBY MELVILLE/Reuters)


LONDON - Is there anything shinier than a bronze medal? Maybe the blue eyes of a thirty-year-old woman who made Canadian history by winning a diving medal in four consecutive Games?

Or the brown eyes of a 20-year-old who just won her first Olympic medal?

They were right in front of me, in the area where journalists interview athletes after their performances, and I could feel their well-restrained excitement.

Emilie Heymans, a very beautiful thirty-year-old woman, blonde and imposing, always quiet according to those close to her.

And Jennifer Abel, full of energy and graced with powerful legs, which allowed her to jump as high as her leader.

They are both London Games bronze medallists. This is Canada's first medal.

Emilie is not that excited. She may have let a tear slip while she waited for the ceremony, but she then regained her composure: "I may cry for real when I get back to my room. In the meantime, I'm enjoying this as much as when I was 20. Winning an Olympic medal has nothing to do with age," she said before going back to her glorious moment.

Synchronized diving has no room for error. Each technical mistake becomes a synchronization error, costing the team twice.

Which is what happened during their second dive, even if it was basic, compulsory and of a low-difficulty rating. Yet, in the stadium, we noticed two cameramen disturbing the two women as they were practicing their first moves, which they always do before diving. Abel and Heymans both explained how this made them lose their focus, and that they didn't feel in sync before diving. Indeed, after this dive which made them drop down to the fifth rank, they decided they would not get fooled twice: "We went somewhere quiet to practice," Emilie said.

By the time they climbed on the springboard for the third time, their concentration had come back. They just needed to fight until the end in order to catch up to, and beat, the Italians.

All the attention was on Emilie Heymans. She could become the first diver ever to win medals in four consecutive Olympic Games. But Abel would not be a stepping stone. Journalists tried to pry some pretty cliches from her, but she did not play ball. Yes, she was sincerely happy for her partner and leader, but also for her own medal. In the end, all she said was they were a team.

Abel found the best answer regarding the age gap between the two young women: "Emilie is younger than her thirty years and I'm older than my twenty. We're meeting in the middle", she said.

Both women were happy Sunday. But they knew they still have to face another challenge before the end of the competition. Both Abel and Heymans are competing in individual diving on the 3-metre board.

Will Emilie retire then?

Sunday, she would not think about it. You never know, Rio de Janeiro is such a beautiful city.