An elegant black bare-haired dress that reveals her defined muscles, Catherine Savard walked the stage of the Gala Quebec Cinema ten days ago. Invited to Radio-Canada studio 42 to present Nadia, the butterfly, a feature film, starred in it, for which it was nominated for the Film of the Year Award.
Saturday, swimming cap on her head, and goggles with polyester eyes and carbon jersey on the shoulders, she will climb onto the starting block at Pan American Sports Center in Toronto to try to fulfill her last swimming ambition: qualifying for her third. The Olympic Games in Tokyo, which start next month.
“The tension is building a little,” Savard said by phone, a few days before he left for the trials, which will take place without an audience and with a limited number of participants.
“I’m confident most of the time, but there are still a few days where I feel weak. It’s part of the road to trials. In fact, I can’t wait to see where I really am.”
Aside from the pandemic, which has only caused two postponements of these selections in the past few months, the context is very different compared to 2016. Savard missed qualifying in the 100m butterfly, her favorite event, as she was world fifth. Benny Oleksiak, who was 15 at the time, had his way, among other things, blocked.
“It doesn’t even compare. In 2016, I had pressure to be a winner in theory. Training pressure for one event. I’m not in the same state of mind, that’s for sure. A lot has happened in the last four or five years. I’m a different person, on the I guess. I’ve changed a lot mentally and physically.”
Between sports and the arts, the Pont Rouge native also completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education last fall. She is 28 years old, and she is at a crossroads. Like Nadia, her character in the movie, she is already anticipating her last moments in a world she plunged into 20 years ago.
Showed as an example: “If I don’t qualify for the Olympic team, this may be the last time I go to the weight room at the Claude Rubilard Center.” I’m really feeling a little nostalgic. I try not to think about it too much. […] I’d like to do that for a little more than two months, let’s say! ”
Devastated after her butterfly disappointment in 2016, Savard rebounded in the 200m freestyle, a test she wasn’t betting on. The following summer, she won the bronze medal in the relay race in Rio.
“It turned out to be lucky, but it happened by chance. 200 Free wasn’t on my radar, but not all.”
Five years later, the scenario has reversed. On Saturday, she will line up in the 100m butterfly, without having the ambition to qualify. In the shortlist thanks to her gold medal at the last World Championships, Ontarian Margaret McNeil already took a place. Oleksiak, vice-champion Olympic, unregistered, preferring to focus on crawling in trials. However, fellow favorite Rebecca Smith leaves for the other ticket available.
“It will be tight”
Savard has not swam in qualifying once since the 2016 trials, so she is aiming for the 200th freestyle, trying to “not put pressure on herself”. Although six swimmers can be selected, the competition promises to be fierce with Olympic medalists Oleksiak, Taylor Rock and Emily Overholt as well as young phenom Summer McIntosh, 14. Her fellow CAMO Mary Sophie Harvey shares the same ambition (see other tab).
“With Marie Sophie and me, there’s 10 of us at the same second. It’s probably tight. To do the relay, I think it would take 1:57, which is my best time. I’m not very far. I think I still have my place.”
Savard derives her confidence from simulating the competition as she posted her best time since 2017 (1 min 58 sec 57).
I can clearly say, without a doubt, that I am in the best shape, both mentally and physically, since 2017.
Her other Olympic goal is the 200m butterfly, which she gave up after 2014. Since Audrey Lacroix retired at the end of 2016, this race is very open in Canada. Harvey is another national champion (2019), which allowed her to take a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Lima.
“I haven’t swam in a long time, but I’m training hard,” Savard said. No girl has the Olympic standard [A]. It will depend on who wins that day. ”
Despite all the turmoil caused by the 14-month postponement of the Olympic trials, the weeks away from the pools, and the training in the free pools, Savard thinks he has benefited from that extra period, at least in terms of his physical condition.
“It can work in my best interest, but it can also work for a lot of people. We look at the younger one, one year older, and it can make a big difference. Is it too late? We don’t know.”
Savard continues to think out loud. She remembers 2018 and the long vacation she took from swimming.
“There are parts where I didn’t think I’d be able to get back to my level, ever. In 2018, I didn’t even think I was in the pool now. When I started over, it took me so long to believe it. I really believed in it for a year About half.”
Will that be enough for an ending like in the movies?
eye of Fitness Trainer
In the past year and a half, [Katerine] You accomplished things in training that you never would. She is in great shape with all of his past experiences, disappointments and successes, his toolbox is very full. We will have to use all the tools to be able to determine a place on the team. It will not be easy, there are good people in all the tests. There is no easier place than another. 200 freestyle, where she won an Olympic medal in the relay, is her best chance. There’s a girl at 1:56 [Penny Oleksiak], all others in 1 minute 57 seconds. It will be up to those who want it the most. Depending on the weather, they will take four to six girls to relay. If it’s six, Catherine and Marie Sophie [Harvey] good chance. In the class of 200 butterflies, Catherine was the only one who swam according to the standards, but not recently. Swim like a cat. You throw it in the air and it can land on all four legs. I feel like she’s one of the luckiest girls out there.
Claude Saint-Jean, coach of CAMO