CBC Sports

Olympics2012Emilie Heymans makes Canadian history with typical humility

Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012 | 08:59 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

Back to accessibility links
Emilie Heymans became the first Canadian to win four medals in four straight Olympic Games on Sunday. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images) Emilie Heymans became the first Canadian to win four medals in four straight Olympic Games on Sunday. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

Supporting Story Content

End of Supporting Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Beginning of Story Content

As a Canadian diver Emilie Heymans lives mostly in anonymity between Olympic Games.
In front of the camera she presents a quiet demeanour, one that doesn't point to an athlete with an impressive resume. On Sunday at the Olympics in London, she once again smashed that perception.
As a Canadian diver Emilie Heymans lives mostly in anonymity between Olympic Games.

In front of the camera she presents a quiet demeanour, one that doesn't point to an athlete with an impressive resume.

On Sunday at the Olympics in London, she once again smashed that perception.

In fact, she's done something no other Canadian summer Olympian has ever attained.

Heymans, along with partner Jennifer Abel, earned a bronze medal in the women's three-metre synchronized springboard event - she can add to her medal haul with the individual springboard competition still ahead.

The medal did more than just give the nation its first medal of the Games, it cemented the 30-year-old into a Canadian Olympic icon.

With her third-place showing, Heymans became the first Canadian to win four medals in four straight Olympics. (Another Canadian Olympian, Toronto trampolinist Karen Cockburn, can equal the mark in London.)

She also is the first female diver to accomplish this feat.

Gymnastics 1st love

However, the history-making day Heymans celebrated with Abel would never have happened if she followed her first love.

Born in Belgium, where her mother Marie-Paule Van Eyck competed for the Western European nation at the 1976 Montreal Games, Heymans's heart was in gymnastics.

From ages five to 11 she dreamed of Olympic glory on a gym floor, not atop a diving platform.

Those aspirations were short-lived when coaches told her she didn't have the ideal body type to be successful.

The news initially stung.

"My first dream was to go to the Olympics and win a medal in gymnastics," Heymans told me leading up to the 2008 Olympics. "It was disappointing but once I started diving I enjoyed it as much as gymnastics."

New career path pays off

The change in career path didn't take long to pay off. Heymans's first year on the international stage just happened to coincide with the 2000 Sydney Olympics. There she won a silver medal with partner Anne Montminy in the 10m synchro platform.

Heymans would follow that effort with a bronze-medal performance alongside Blythe Hartley four years later in Athens.

As impressive as those two medals were, they didn't compare to the one Heymans earned in Beijing four years ago.

After failing to qualify for the Olympics in the 10m synchro Marie-Eve Marleau at the Canadian trials - a huge upset for Diving Canada - Heymans had to refocus her efforts in winning a medal in the 10 metre platform, the competition where she fell short in the prior two Olympics.

To her credit, Montminy was one of the few analysts that gave her former partner a fighting chance.

"She's in great physical condition and definitely a medal contender," predicted the CBC Sports diving expert at the time.

Heymans more than lived up to expectations. It took a final pressure dive from China's Chen Ruolin in front of her entire nation to keep the Canadian off the gold-medal podium.

Just as in Beijing, Heymans tells reporters she doesn't know if the London Olympics will be her last, although I wouldn't bet against her continuing to break new ground.

"Emilie has won a medal at four straight Games and with three different partners," Sylvie Bernier, Canada's assistant Chef de Mission and 1984 Olympic diving gold medallist, told CBC Sport host Scott Russell. "She has a quiet confidence and always believes she can do it.  She doesn't need to tell the whole world.  Still, to be at the top for 16 years is very impressive."

In true Heymans' fashion, she deflected the attention away from her record-setting performance, telling Russell: "It's great and I hope that this medal will inspire all of the other athletes to do well over the next two weeks."

History sprinkled with a little humility.

Typical Emilie.

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media