NShello little sister,
The feeling I get when I see you competing in your second Olympiad, after all you’ve been through in the past few years, is indescribable. I always knew you were a fighter and could rise up, but I have to tell you, I found it hard to see you hit rock bottom in 2018.
I was deeply impressed when your seat on the flight to Tokyo was confirmed. This is your second game and I know your experience in Rio was great. But I think it will be better this time. It has been a long journey for you.
I’ve been through BurntPandemic divorce. You trained on the water at the end of winter in British Columbia, away from your loved ones. You worked as a nurse at the beginning of the epidemic, as well as continuing your studies and getting involved with younger people in your kayak club and keeping fit.
I saw you fall apart and gradually rebuild yourself into a stronger person than before. I think you deserve this place more than the first time.
Regardless of what happens in the next few days, it is already a victory to be able to get back into the competition and qualify for this very special Olympics.
yI remember that famous day in 2018. You just got back from your bootcamp in Florida. With parents, we left Lac-Beauport to come and see you in Trois-Rivières because you did not have the strength to drive to join us. I was so tired.
When I saw you I gave you the biggest hug in the world and it hit me. I have lost a lot of weight. You melt in my arms. You sister are so strong, you looked so fragile.
I find it very difficult to see you like this. Just thinking about it, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I was really tired, and overtrained.
I just wanted to take all your hugs so you don’t have to go through this difficult period.
On the other hand, I think hitting the bottom of the barrel allowed you to come back stronger.
You have always given over 110% in everything you do. In training, I know you’ve always been on top, without half-measures. I believe that this ordeal, no matter how difficult, allowed you to discover your limits.
Since I’ve been a kayaking athlete, I know that high-performance sports are just too strong, sometimes too much. We have so much willpower that it can become unhealthy.
I find it wonderful to see you find your balance in these difficult years past.
TThe rebuilding took a long time, more than you’d like, I know. But I admire you for taking this time. You have been able to put your Olympic dream aside for several months to rebuild yourself. It is impressive. It is rare for athletes to take the time.
Already in 2019, I was better. It was encouraging. But in February 2020, when my daughter Lola was born, it really felt like you came back. My sister is back.
And you know what’s funny? Baby Lola reminds me so much of you. It is also a force of nature. They are very small, cheerful and have more energy than they need. She exudes positivity just like you.
You two haven’t been able to see each other much because of COVID-19, but I think you still have a great bond. I hope she continues to look like you as she gets older. I hope you are wise, and know how to set the record straight, as you know so well in spite of your young age.
I especially hope that whatever excites her, she will have the sacred fire that has inhabited you since our childhood, and be passionate about something, as much as you are in kayaking.
TYou probably don’t remember when you started kayaking. You were very young, but you wanted to be like our brother and I. I wanted to be on the water. Already, when you hit your first paddle strokes, it was obvious that you had talent.
We all had a talent for this sport in the family, but there was something else that allowed you to get to where you are today: sacred fire.
I also participated in the national team, but this torch that lit you, you lost over the years. Yours faithfully, still shines a lot. You always had this desire to win, to be the fastest, but with respect.
At 16, I was faster than some of my national teammates. It was awesome. We often trained together at Lac-Beauport. You followed me and shouted at you:
Go, go, faster!
The more years passed, the faster it went. I will always remember the time you beat me. It was at the national trials in Montreal, the year of the London Olympics. She wasn’t even officially on the national team at the time.
I have to admit I wasn’t very happy.
It broke parents’ hearts every time we had to compete. They thought if you had to hit me it would be the end of the world. They also knew that with your big heart, you didn’t want to get ahead of me.
However, if anyone is going to make it to the Olympics in the family, it sure will be you. By the way, I told you, when you were crying, the day I told you I was going to retire. You are not consolation.
She told me I couldn’t stop, that I had the perfect physique to perform…but I just didn’t have the brain for that anymore. This will, this passion that dwelt in you, I no longer have.
I didn’t regret my decision until 2016. I admit I felt very sad when I traveled to the Olympics in Rio. I realized that if I had continued, I could have lived this moment with you. We can even share a kayak.
However, I realized that my place was not there. I had other projects and another passion. On the other hand, I’m glad I experienced a top-level athlete because I understand what you’re going through. I understand the sacrifices you made, the time you spent training, and all you invested in becoming an Olympic athlete.
theThe pandemic has not made the year of preparing for Tokyo easy. Normally the team trains in Florida during the winter, but the ban on overseas travel forced you to train in British Columbia.
You have sent us pictures. I was full of ice, with gloves on, the water was cold.
I believed :
but why? why are you doing that?
The answer is simple, I thought about the Olympics. This goal, was firmly rooted in you, even if the situation was uncertain, even if the event could be canceled at any time. I was able to stay focused. You gave your all, and in the end, you were one of the first Canadian athletes to confirm your place in Tokyo.
Who would have believed that? We couldn’t have said when we saw you in 2018, back from that famous training camp in Florida.
At the same time, you are so strong that I am not surprised it is too late.
yI can’t be in the pool with you today. But if you’ve been there, I know what I’m going to tell you before you hit the starting line.
I would like to tell you that I am really proud of you, that the whole family, and Quebec are all behind you. Regardless of the outcome, I want you to have fun. I want you to enjoy every stroke of the paddle, from first to last.
Live this moment 100%, rip the finish line, smash everything you know too well. But above all, enjoy the moment. Take the time to believe you’re in the Olympics. Record every second in your memory.
For us, seeing you healthy and satisfied is the best Olympic medal in existence.
And when your arms ache in the middle of a race, imagine your mom in the stands. Do you remember his intensity and his big voice?
I think if you yell in front of the TV, you’ll hear it as much as Japan tells you, as it did in each of our competitions:
Baby push, push!
Interviewed by Alexandra Becchet
Banner photo Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images and photos provided by Marie-Pierre Langlois
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