Winnipeg Olympic swimmer Chantal Van Landeghem retiring, pursuing passions 'outside of the water'

Olympic swimmer Chantal Van Landeghem has decided to hang up her cap and goggles and dive into a new career.

Van Landeghem won bronze as part of 4-person 100-metre relay at Rio Olympic Games

Chantal Van Landeghem, a memeber of the Canadian women's 4x100-metre freestyle relay team, will pursue her master's degree in clinical psychology with a focus on sports at the University of Manitoba. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Olympic swimmer Chantal Van Landeghem has decided to hang up her cap and goggles and dive into a new career.

The 23-year-old Winnipegger is retiring from competitive swimming after almost two decades in the sport in order to pursue her master's degree in clinical psychology with a focus on sports at the University of Manitoba.

Van Landeghem's swimming career included a bronze-medal win at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the four-person 100-metre freestyle relay. She also won two golds and a silver at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

She says the decision to retire was difficult, but one she made after she felt her love for the sport beginning to wane.

"I've been thinking a while about it and I think all that love and passion that I felt for swimming for 19 years isn't really there anymore, and it's kind of transferred onto other passions that I'm pursuing outside of the water," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Up to Speed.

"It is very tough for athletes to retire from sport. For us, and for me specifically, it's been such a big part of my life for so long, so it's scary to think about what life would look like without that sport and that identity."

Van Landeghem got a taste of what it's like to counsel athletes when she volunteered as a sports psychologist at this year's Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. She says the experience "reaffirmed" everything she wanted to do in her future career.

"In a way I guess it made the decision [to retire] a little bit easier just because I feel so much purpose and motivation to pursue this next stage of my life with that same purpose and motivation that I used to feel for swimming," she said.

She says sports psychologists helped her when she was competing in Rio.

"For me it really just helps with confidence behind the blocks and in the ready room. Once you reach the pinnacle of sports physically, competitors aren't separated by a lot, but in my experience it's usually the mentally tough competitors that end up on top once you sort of reach that pinnacle."

Although she's stepping out of the pool for now, there's still time for her to jump back in. She'll graduate from her master's program just in time to start training for the 2019-2020 season in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games if she chooses to.

"It's hard to say this far out, looking down the road, whether that itch will be there to keep training. But the great thing is the opportunity would be there and if I did decide to come back I think that option would be available to me, which is awesome."

With files from Up to Speed