Jessica Gaudreault's passion fuels dream of water polo success
Canadian goalie willing to do anything to win
Jessica Gaudreault loves being in the water. There's just one problem; she's not crazy about swimming.
What to do?
Simple, play water polo and play goalie.
"The goaltending position worked out perfectly for me," said Gaudreault, who was in goal in Canada's 13-4 loss in the gold medal game of women's water polo to the heavily favoured United States.
"I didn't have to swim; I don't get grabbed by people and I love being in the water. It is awesome."
The Ottawa native, who attends Indiana University on a water polo scholarship and studies human biology, realized she had a future in the sport after playing water polo for a little more than three years. Now she is utterly consumed by it.
"It took me a while to get the hang of it, but I soon realized I could go far with this," said Gaudreault. "I figured I could go to school and play on the national team."
Gaudreault, who will turn 21 on Saturday, said she lives for the sport. In fact, one of her favourite quotes is, 'Find what you love and let it kill you.'
She explains: "Honestly, for me water polo is everything. I went to school for water polo, I train water polo nine hours a day. If water polo is going to kill me, then so be it. I love doing it. It makes me happy."
Satisfied with silver, looks ahead to gold
Gaudreault said she and her teammates felt pressure facing the Americans in a one-game showdown for gold, but she was helped by the fact she had a huge cheering section in attendance backing her win or lose.
"I don't even think they understand the game, but they fire me up with their cheering," said Gaudreault.
For the record, Gaudreault said she thrives under pressure. "I love feeling the butterflies in my stomach," she said. "It gets me going and fires me up."
Standing with her silver medal, Gaudreault thinks about the future when one day she hopes to win gold – an Olympic gold would be a dream come true – but for now she is proud of what she and her teammates achieved.
"I'm happy enough, honestly," said Gaudreault. "This is my first Pan Am games and I couldn't be more excited to have a silver with these girls."
Team Canada coach Johanne Begin said the National team currently has three goalies and Gaudreault will be pushed by the others.
While Begin said Gaudreault had a good Pan Am Games, there are things in her game that require work.
"She was up and down," said Begin. "She's young and doesn't have a lot of experience. We need to push her through those games that are hard so she can grow more. She has the character to be goalie, for sure. She is a hard worker and warrior. She needs to compensate for her size because she is a small girl. How she can do that is by being stronger so she can stay higher and be more present in the goal."
The Americans dominated the preliminary round winning the A Pool with a perfect 3-0 record. They beat Cuba 18-3, Argentina 30-3 and Mexico 25-3. The United States advanced to the gold medal game with a convincing 16-3 victory over Brazil in the semifinal. Canada, meanwhile, won the B Pool with a 2-0-1 record. After an opening 7-7 draw against Brazil, the Canadians beat Venezuela 15-4 and Puerto Rico 19-5. Canada moved into the gold medal game with a 14-7 win over Cuba in the other semifinal.
Best is yet to come
Gaudreault believes her best days in the sport lie ahead of her and she is fully prepared to do what it takes to help her country win.
"This is just the beginning of my career," said Gaudreault. "I'm a young goalie and I think I can do a couple more cycles."
Being a goalie, the last line of defence, has its ups and downs.
Asked what the best thing about playing goalie is, Gaudreault said, "Getting that block. Honestly, I love the sound of the ball hitting my arm. It really fires me up." As for the worst thing, surprisingly it is not allowing goals.
"I don't think goals are that bad; they are going to happen," said Gaudreault. "Getting hit in the head is pretty annoying. Getting hit in the back of the head or the face is way worse."