Meet Aurélie Rivard, Canada's flag-bearer for closing ceremony of Paralympic Games
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu native smashed records, won 4 medals in Rio
Before she arrived in Brazil, Aurélie Rivard was touted as both the one to watch and the one to beat in the pool at the Paralympic Games.
The 20-year-old swimmer from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., who was born with an impairment to her left hand, delivered in no uncertain terms.
"That was my goal, just to win the first three events, that's what I wanted," she told CBC News.
"Actually that is what I have dreamt of and now that it's happened, I still can't believe it really."
On Sunday, Rivard was handed another honour. She was chosen as Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony.
'We haven't seen the best of her'
At 16, Rivard picked up momentum after claiming silver at the London Paralympics in 2012.
She went on to win two gold and four total medals at the 2015 world championships, breaking Canadian records in the 50- and 400-metre freestyles.
Benoit Huot, one of Canada's most decorated Paralympian swimmers, who claimed his 20th Paralympic medal this week, met Rivard for the first time when she was 12.
Huot, the head of Canada's Paralympic team, said she has blossomed as a competitor.
"The bottom line is the passion," he said. "She has the fire in her heart to make sure that gives her all every time she trains and competes and every time there is an athlete beside her."
He described her as a champion brimming with positive energy and continues to push herself to new accomplishments.
"She's a great athlete and we haven't seen the best of her."
Rivard admitted that she has been so focused that she has barely had any time to process her string of victories.
"It's such an amazing feeling," she said.
Rivard now has a career tally of 22 medals from competing in the Commonwealth Games, Parapan Am Games, World champions and two Paralympic Games.
Rooting for her back home
While Rivard continues to make waves in international competitions, young swimmers in her hometown look up to her.
Jocelyn Boileau, a coach at the Club National du Haut-Richelieu, said her performances in Rio gave him goosebumps and that she inspires her counterparts in the pool.
"She sets an example," Jocelyn Boileau said. "She's like a close confidante for everyone."
She gives young swimmers like 11-year-old Shelby Lajeunesse the hope that they too will one day compete at the world stage.
"It's a really great opportunity to swim with her because she's really fast and makes me want to be fast like her too," Lajeunesse said.
"I am really proud of her."
With files from Alison Northcott and The Canadian Press