For Maxim Bouchard, everything happens for a reason

For Maxim Bouchard, everything happens for a reason


How a life-changing accident brought me back to diving

By Maxim Bouchard for CBC Sports
July 11, 2015
A diving accident nearly cost Canadian Maxim Bouchard his life five years ago. (Diving Canada) A diving accident nearly cost Canadian Maxim Bouchard his life five years ago. (Diving Canada)

It's crazy how an event can change the course of your life.

In 2010, two years after I retired from diving, everything changed in an instant when the board collapsed under my feet. I remember slowly feeling the emptiness settle in and then regaining consciousness 10 metres below — not in, but outside of the pool oddly enough.

I had gone to the Philippines to do diving shows and to flee the world of competitive diving, but also to understand what the sport meant to me. All of a sudden, when the doctors told me that the chances my arm would regain its full mobility were very small, it hit me.

I had other worries. I fractured my hand and humerus when I hit the side of the pool, split open my head and had deep cuts to my legs.

That's when I realized that life only hangs by a thread and everything could change at any given time without any notice. The accident also gave me the courage, determination and motivation to reach my ultimate goal of returning to the 10-metre platform, and earn my way back on the Canadian national team.

To my family and friends, this goal might have seemed unattainable, but I have demonstrated that when you believe in your dreams nothing will get in the way.

Against all odds, after a year and a half of rehabilitation and about six months of training, I made my way back on the national team and earned an unexpected but more than satisfactory fourth place at the Olympic trials in 2012.

Faced with ultimatum

Fast forward two years and the two best seasons of my career, and I was now faced with an ultimatum.

For almost a year, my shoulder had been bothering me and was keeping me away from training to my full potential. Still, I was performing decently, but after trying all possible treatments, my pain did not go away. I had to start thinking about a more serious and long-term solution that would once again put my diving career in jeopardy.

When it’s a choice, the decision is not easy to take.

I had two options: I could either continue to do my limited workouts with pain or go under the knife and potentially be able to dive without pain, or maybe, never be able to go up on the platform again.

I underwent an acromioplasty in September 2014. My surgeon removed 1 centimetre of my collarbone. It was a major operation with a cant that my shoulder would not be stable enough to dive. Fortunately, I had a great surgeon and was closely followed by my medical team for recovery.

Four years ago, I had no choice, surgery was necessary. This time it was different, the outcome was unknown; this surgery was going to be life changing and it could go either way.

After careful deliberation with my support team and a few meetings with the surgeon, I made the decision that would potentially allow me to train pain free and help me develop my talent to its full potential. It was the hardest decision I had to make; so many elements were at risk.

Fortunately, everything went well during surgery. I was able to get back on the 10-metre platform in a little over five months, just in time for the winter senior Canadian championship. I dove with my heart and successfully defended my national title.

 
Bouchard's goal is to be competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Diving Canada) Bouchard's goal is to be competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Diving Canada)

Dealing with the hurt

Having healed of all my nagging injuries, I was on the right track to have another good season.

Any athlete will tell you that training with a little soreness is part of the routine. Our bodies rarely feel fresh during the season, because we prepare for the end goal. Well, it seems like my body is up for challenges slightly bigger than a tight hamstring!

In April, I was in Mexico for my first Grand Prix of the year. After a rough morning, I had managed to make my way into the final but had to withdraw due to an unfortunate accident.

As if I had not had enough obstacles on my path, I fractured my foot walking down the stairs in the hotel lobby. If it had at least happened during a diving related activity I would have not felt so terrible about it.

The Mexican doctors told me my foot would be in a “cast for six weeks!”

As stubborn as I am, I refused the treatments and walked out of the hospital on crutches with what looked like an astronaut boot. I was not going to let a moment of inattention threaten my season.

 

No stopping me

With a career filled with obstacles, I did not let the most recent events bring me down. Instead, I used them to come back stronger and earn my spot on the Pan American Games team, as well as the highly sought after spot on the FINA World Aquatics team.

Hopefully the setbacks are over and I can stay healthy and peak right at the time to fulfill my biggest, oldest dream: to represent Canada at the Olympic Games.

See you soon,

Max

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