The fine line between fear and freedom

The fine line between fear and freedom

'Three seconds of pure adrenaline are the closest I will ever get to real freedom,’ says Canadian high diver Lysanne Richard

By Lysanne Richard for CBC Sports
July 28, 2017

Editor’s note: Lysanne Richard had to withdraw from the world aquatics championships due to a neck injury.

I feel the gusts of wind. They almost make me lose my balance but at the same time they caress my skin.

There are no limits to Canadian high diver Lysanne Richard's fearlessness. (Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images) There are no limits to Canadian high diver Lysanne Richard's fearlessness. (Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images)

I love the wind. In front of me is the ocean: a rough sea with unpredictable waves crashing against the cliffs. I love the noise they make. I’m there, bare-footed on the rocks, armed only with my bathing suit, ready to dance in the air.

I’ll have a 21-metre fall to fill with movement. Three seconds of freedom in which I get to be the hero. My heart beats quickly, but I embrace the brief pang of fear that I defy with each dive. It is thanks to this fear that I take so much pride in perfectly striking the surface of the water. My speed as I fall will approach 80 km/h, which will give me the chance, once I’ve perfected my movement and I’m in the perfect position, to cleave the water’s surface and create almost no splash; just a sound as if I were tearing open the ocean.

Even if the spot I jump off from is a little less smooth and level than at the Olympic stadium where I usually train, even if the water below me is moving more than at my indoor practices, even if the sounds of nature are different than at the aquatic centre, I’m ready. Even though I normally train for 10-metre dives and in competition I have to do 20, I know exactly what I have to do to make for an excellent dive. During the entire off-season I’ve prepared for this moment.

Along with my trainers, I’ve dissected every step of my movements. We’ve analyzed them and streamlined them. With my work on visualization, I have perfected them. Thanks to my fitness training, I have added muscle and strength so that I can be solid enough to withstand my impact on the water.


There are so many hours of training behind these three seconds, the brief time is precious to me. These three seconds of pure adrenaline are the closest I will ever get to real freedom. Three seconds can seem like an eternity, three seconds where there is only me and the wind, the wind that I created with the speed of my fall.


Into the void

I’m 35 years old, I am a mother of three children and what I choose to do for a living is to throw myself into the void.

Being a mom also takes up much of Richard's life. (Courtesy Lysanne Richard) Being a mom also takes up much of Richard's life. (Courtesy Lysanne Richard)

In fact, even if I have a certain affection for cliffs like Portugal’s Azores (where my competitions take me) the jump-off point doesn’t matter that much to me. Sometimes they’re decks, bridges or platforms, but what matters is that I can throw myself off of them! To some people it must seem absurd, even dangerous, since there is no location where I can control all of the elements.

I’m a serious and thoughtful person and I’m proud to be a model of limit-pushing and perseverance for my children and, I hope, many others. My passion is diving, even if I only have a few moments to savour my flight.


I’ve never had the sense that I was particularly gifted or better than anyone else in any particular way. Actually, I think I’m a pretty ordinary person. I’m a loving mother who makes toast, does drawings, reads stories and leads a regular life.

A little life that makes me happy, filled with extraordinary moments. But I was also called to achievement. I think that the ability to do something incredible exists inside every one of us.

I decided that in addition to being accomplished in the role of mother, I needed to see what I was capable of doing in diving. I chose to believe in myself and I was determined to work hard, and that’s what brought me to the highest platforms.

In 2016, I won the FINA world championships in high diving, and they named me female athlete of the year, which was in addition to two other victories and a second-place finish at the RedBull Cliff Diving event.


These days, I’m lucky to live such an incredible life. I get to watch my children grow and they make me so proud. I get to travel the world and visit some of the most beautiful places on the planet. I continue to train and push myself day after day. I still have so much to accomplish, I look to the future with optimism and know that the best is yet to come.

(Large photos by Getty Images)

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