Despatie, Heymans have thinking to do

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:19 PM ET

Alexandre Despatie has been at the forefront of Canadian diving for so long, it’s often hard to remember he’s only 25.

He broke onto the international scene at the 1998 Commonwealth Games when he captured gold on the 10-metre platform as a 13-year-old and has since won a Canadian-record nine Commonwealth golds, two Olympic medals and is the only diver to have won the world title on all three boards (one-metre and three-metre in 2005, the 10-metre in 2003).

Yet unlike the water in the London Canada Games Aquatic Centre pool, his future in the sport beyond next year’s Summer Olympics, even entering what should be the prime years of his athletic life, is unclear.

“I’ve been diving for quite a long time now — 20 years I’ve been in the sport,” the Laval, Que., native said Wednesday, the day before the Canadian winter national championships opened. “It’s funny. I’m only 25, but I feel like a veteran. I’ve been around so long and I’ve seen people come and go already in this sport. I love to dive still, it’s still my great passion and I’m still in love with the sport.

“But after 2012 I’m going to have to sit down and see where I am, see where I want to go, see if I’m still satisfied with my career and if I want to keep going. I’ve never been someone that believes you can force retirement on someone. I’ll just see where I am and see if I’ve had enough.”

The same sentiment is voiced by another Canadian star, Emilie Heymans of St-Lambert, Que. The three-time Olympic medallist and the 2003 world champion on the 10-metre platform is 29 now. She’s completing a degree in fashion merchandising in April at the University of Quebec-Montreal.

“Hopefully it will be my second passion after I’m done diving,” she said. “I’m pretty much done after the Olympics. I may keep going for another year after that, but not four more (to Rio in 2016).”

The winter nationals serve as the selection trials for the spring Grand Prix season and even someone with Despatie’s or Heymans’ credentials still have to compete, even if for slightly different reasons.

“I’m doing a new dive here,” Heymans said of an inward 2 1/2 pike with a degree of difficulty of 3.0.”

For Despatie, the nationals are still vital events.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic medallist or at your first nationals, these meets are important. For one, there are a lot of distractions — it’s a bit less formal, there is a lot more people and it’s a much tighter environment, so it’s good for me to work on staying in my bubble and focusing on my own performance.”

Diving Canada high performance director Scott Cranham said the stars have provided “great role models” for the up-and-comers. “They’ve shown Canadian divers can reach the podium at the very highest levels.”

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SteveGatLFPress


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