Was the weather chilly Monday morning? The best Canadian artistic swimmers can attest to this: from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., they trained in the cold waters of the swimming pool at the Parc Jean-Drapeau aquatic complex.

Chased from the National Sports Institute to the Olympic Stadium after the fire with catastrophic consequences on March 21, the athletes found refuge a month later in the diving pool on Sainte-Hélène Island, where the water is heated. However, the breakage of a pump forced them to squat part of the swimming pool.

“It’s very, very cold,” confirmed Florence Tremblay, adding that half of the team is wearing isothermal suits to stay warm.

After an eventful Olympic cycle, marked by the surprise resignation of the head coach last year, the arrival of a new coach three months ago, the adaptation to a new scoring system, an Olympic qualification in extremis and routine overhauls, this last thermal inconvenience was a lesser evil.

In any case, less than two hours later, the enthusiasm of the nine swimmers and their loved ones alone heated the large room at the entrance to Canadian Olympic House, downtown. In a kind of cacophonous excitement – ​​people suffering from tinnitus refrain – they awaited their official nomination for the Paris Olympics, where their competitions will take place from August 5 to 10.

The dream somehow came true when chef de mission Bruny Surin helped them put on the Canadian team jacket. The zipper gave most of the lucky ladies some trouble. Raphaëlle Plante was the only one to succeed in putting it back together on the first try!

“I was practicing it in my head! » laughed the 21-year-old swimmer, originally from Quebec. Minutes later, she became emotional listening to captain Kenzie Priddell recall how the past year had been “super stressful” for the group.

“It came to me. I had little tears because it was like all the stress of the last few years just fell away. It was like done!”

The team’s outfielder competed in the final World Cup in Markham at the end of May, not knowing what awaited her. She was one of the last to get confirmation of her selection from the coaches on Thursday. It wasn’t until she got home that reality hit her.

“I was walking and it hit me: I started baaaaaaalling! » testified Raphaëlle Plante, under the attentive ear of her mother and her sister, who came to celebrate the moment with her, which was a change from the 2021 nominations, in the middle of a pandemic.

A native of Vienna – her father was a musician for Cirque du Soleil – Raphaëlle Plante cut her teeth at the Nevada Desert Mermaids club, where the family settled to follow the circus. At seven years old, she was welcomed by coach Stéphanie Bissonnette, a former member of the Canadian team recruited by Sylvie Fréchette – who was present on Monday – for the O show.

At 14, she returned to Quebec with her mother and sister with the ambition of continuing her progress in the Canadian system, since she did not hold American citizenship. She joined Kasia Kulesza, former teammate of Stéphanie Bissonnette, who coached at Québec Excellence Synchro. In 2020, the two met at the Canada Artistic Swimming national center in Montreal, where Kulesza is now a coach.

Florence Tremblay is another athlete who has been through Québec Excellence. The 19-year-old swimmer developed at the Vivelo club in Rimouski, her hometown. Arriving at the national centre in the fall of 2022, she has proven to be “a pillar of the team during the last competitions,” praised Kulesza. “She’s a very good technician,” added the woman who will assist new head coach Anna Volshyna, a Ukrainian by origin who has worked with the American team for five years.

After a long and stressful process that began in September, Tremblay was observed like all the others in routines evaluated by independent judges. She learned that she had gotten her ticket to Paris without expecting it.

“The coaches started by giving me feedback on how the selection went. Afterwards, they told me that I was part of the team. I was in shock! I didn’t believe they were going to tell me that day! I was very happy. It’s truly my biggest dream coming true. So, that’s awesome! »

Monday, Florence Tremblay was able to experience it in a more formal way with her father, her sister and her eight colleagues: Plante, Priddell, Scarlett Finn, Jonnie Newman, Claire Scheffel, Sydney Carroll (replacement) and those who will also be the duettists, the world champion Jacqueline Simoneau and Audrey Lamothe.

“It was a great moment to share with the teammates with whom I train every day,” Tremblay said. I consider them a bit like my family. With everyone behind there supporting us, it was really special. »

Now, if anyone could fix the famous pump, Bruny Surin would probably be willing to try his luck “with a float”…