Bouchard capitalizes on her opportunities

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OTTAWA – Perseverance continues to pay off for Canadian swimmer Dominique Bouchard.

From the low of considering retirement after a tough 2012 Olympic trials to the high of beating two American swimming stars for gold at the Pro Swim Series last month, Bouchard is a prime example of an athlete that won’t give up on her dream.

‘’The disappointments have helped me grow as an athlete,’’ said Bouchard who was born in St.

Albert, Alta., lived in North Bay, Ont., and grew up in a bilingual family.

‘’After the 2012 trials I just thought I’d go back one more year to complete my degree,’’ she said. ‘’My coach told me to rate my effort, performance and attitude in training on a scale from one to 10 every day. It helped me evaluate where I was at every practice and I discovered how much I loved the sport.

‘’I knew then I was going to get through this and it was going to get better.’’

The 2014 season eventually became a breakthrough year for Bouchard but in an unusual fashion. It was a heavy winter and spring in school for the 23-year-old with many decisions to be made along with her last season of NCAA racing.

‘’There was a lot of stress,’’ said the University of Missouri graduate in health care and administration. ‘’Decisions needed to be made regarding my postgraduate studies and I didn’t feel I was as ready as I should be going into the trials.”

At the trials in Victoria, she made the qualifying time for Pan Pacific Championships and Commonwealth Games, but placed fourth in a deep field. With only three spots available, it appeared she had missed making the team in one of the strongest events in Canadian swimming, which includes world championship medallist Hilary Caldwell and Olympian Sinead Russell. She was asked to remain in the B.C. capital for a couple of days because there was a possibility she could be added to the squad. Russell withdrew and Bouchard was officially named to the Pan Pac squad.

‘’It was a shock for me,’’ she said. ‘’Obviously I’d rather make the team the more conventional way by touching the wall first. But anytime you are asked to represent Canada you need to put in the effort to be at your very best. My first thought was that I had to get back in the pool.’’

Most importantly, Bouchard capitalized on this golden opportunity. She raced to victories in the 100-m and 200-m backstroke at last summer’s Canadian championships despite being in the midst of hard training.

It made her ready to face many of the world’s best swimmers at the Pan Pacs in Australia including the powerhouse Americans and Australians. In the 200-m backstroke she clocked a personal best of 2:09.59 and took sixth spot in the final. She also set a new best time in the 100 (1:00.82).

‘’I came out of Australia with two personal best times, the first time that’s happened in two and half years. We didn’t have the best conditions there either with the rain so I also gained a lot of confidence.’’

In 2015, Bouchard wants to maintain her wave of success. It appears we could be in for quite a battle in the women’s backstroke at the trials for the FINA World Championships and Pan American Games April 1 to 4 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

At the recent Pro Swim Series in Austin, Tex., Bouchard won gold medals in the 100-m and 200-m backstroke, upsetting two American stars in the process. In the 100-m she posted a personal best 1:00.68 and edged three-time Olympic champion Nathalie Coughlin. In the 200-m, she reeled in Olympic bronze medallist Elizabeth Beisel.

‘’That was unexpected,’’ Bouchard said. ‘’They were important wins for me. It was my first long-course race of the season and I wanted to get the feel for it again.’’

After temporarily veering off course, Bouchard is back on track in her chase of the Olympic dream.

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