CBC Sports

Canadian swimmers back in synch

Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | 11:22 AM

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Sylvie Frechette could barely contain her excitement.

The Canadian Olympic legend was beaming and silently admiring the young athletes she has mentored, the next generation of synchronized swimming stars, as they revelled in their time under the hot Roman sun.

The team had just won a bronze medal, the first ever in the combination event, one which Canadian coaches Julie and Denise Sauve fought to have included on the international program.

It is the second synchronized swimming medal of the world aquatics championships in Rome for Canada and there is hope for at least one more in the team final.

"I gave 22 years of my life to help get this sport to the top in Canada, "Frechette smiled.

She had captured solo gold under a dramatic set of circumstances at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and following her retirement victories were rare.

"I'd be less than truthful if I said it made me satisfied to see our athletes finishing fifth and sixth in a sport that we once controlled," she said.

But with a gushing captain of the squad, Eve Lamoureux, and her nine teammates singing and dancing in the athlete's village there seemed to be a resurfacing for Canadians in this exacting sport.

"I don't think we've had a happier day," said Lamoureux. "And we're not done yet. There are still more events to come. We plan on finding the podium again!”

It is hard not to be moved by such infectious excitement.

They are, after all, bright young Canadian women who believe in themselves and in the history of their very Canadian sport. It is an athletic pursuit which has the Maple Leaf tattooed on its folklore thanks to the likes of Lisa Alexander, the Vilagos twins, Michelle Cameron and Carolyn Waldo.

They are superstars as is the impressive Sylvie Frechette.

"I used to love it when we came out on the deck and walked in such a way that the people in the stands knew the Canadians were about to compete," Frechette said. "They knew it was us because we were good and we walked like we understood that. I saw that kind of walk again today and it made me very proud."

It is, to be sure, synchronized swimming - a judged sport subject to the capricious decisions of landlocked observers and not everyone understands all of its complexities including yours truly.

That said, it is amazing to watch and difficult to fathom how the athletes can accomplish what they do. And the bottom line is a medal is a medal anyway you cut it.

The latest trip to the podium by the synchronized swimmers in the presence of a luminary like Sylvie Frechette is further evidence that Canada's swimmers are getting back in synch. For all fans of summer sport in this country it comes as welcome news indeed.

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