January 16, 2013
Emilie Heymans retires following storied diving career
By BENOIT RIOUX, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - Emilie Heymans, Canada's most decorated Olympic diver, couldn't hold back tears Wednesday as she announced her retirement at the same training centre where her storied career began 20 years ago.
The 31-year-old from suburban Saint-Lambert said she cried for an entire day last summer before departing for what she knew would be her final Olympics.
Even then she knew she would be working for the last time with longtime trainer Alain Delorme.
"I'll miss meeting all these exceptional people who were around me every day," said an emotional Heymans, whose four Olympic diving medals are a Canadian record.
She told a packed news conference that coach Yihua Li would be particularly missed.
"I can say that she's the one who made the biggest difference in my career," said Heymans, whose 84 podium finishes include 14 titles.
"(Li) went as far as lending me the key to her house so I could rest ... between training sessions."
She leaves the sport as the only female diver ever to win medals at four consecutive Olympics.
Though she's been criticized for failing to win Olympic gold, Heymans expressed no regrets as she reflected on her record-setting career.
"I think I achieved all the goals I set for myself, I reached my full potential," she said.
"I'm proud to have been at the highest level for all these years."
A native of Brussels, Belgium, Heymans' family emigrated to Canada in 1981 when Emilie was nine months old.
Her mother is former fencer Marie-Paule Van Eyck, who competed for Belgium at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Originally a gymnast, Heymans switched to diving at the age of 11 following a growth spurt and a bevy of titles followed.
Her first Olympic podium finish came in Sydney in 2000 when she and fellow Quebecer Anne Montmigny took silver in the 10m synchro.
After taking gold in the individual 10m at the 2003 worlds, Heymans won bronze in the 10m synchro at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens alongside Blythe Hartley.
Four years later in Beijing, Heymans won her first individual Olympic medal, grabbing silver in the 10-metre event.
She capped her career by winning bronze, with teammate Jennifer Abel, in the three-metre synchro at the Olympic Games in London last summer.
Despite the motherlode of medals, Heymans says she doesn't own a display case.
"They're in a little box, somewhere in the house," she said.
"I prefer to keep all of those nice memories in my head."
Heymans has no plans to sit around admiring her hardware, either.
She has had her own line of swimwear for some time, and plans to parlay her love of water sports into a full-time career as a swimwear designer.
- With files from Brian Daly