Aurélie Rivard learned to swim without supporters in the stands to encourage him.

The Paralympic star can tap into his resources to generate that adrenaline rush before the races.

Organizers announced Monday that the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be presented in front of empty bleachers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the case during the recent Olympics.

Rivard doesn’t mind the fact that there will be no one to see her dive into the water at the aquatic center just off Tokyo Bay. She is just happy to have rivals in the halls around her, after 18 long months without competition.

“At first, the idea of ​​not having an adrenaline rush thanks to the crowd annoyed me,” admitted Rivard. But on the other hand, I’ve had to motivate myself for a year without the support of outside help.

“So I think we’re used to the situation. For me, the simple fact of finding my rivals is a good thing, because I haven’t had any for almost two years. “

The 25-year-old swimmer from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu was Canada’s flag bearer after winning three gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio five years ago. She had also won a silver medal that year, having clinched a silver medal in her first games, in London in 2012 when she was just 16 years old.

The Tokyo Paralympics could be Rivard’s last. She plans to take a break after the event to consider her immediate future.

Since Rivard hasn’t competed in a single competition since the start of the pandemic, she doesn’t know what to expect in Tokyo.

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She admits, however, that she was inspired by what she saw during the Olympics, which ended on August 8. For a long time, Rivard doubted the presentation of the Paralympics.

“For once, I was really happy that the Paralympics are after the Olympics,” Rivard said at a swim team camp in Vancouver before flying to Tokyo on Tuesday. “No one knew what to expect. Even less us. Many people suggested that if an event was canceled it would be the Paralympics. If something happened during the Olympics, the Paralympics would be canceled because they generate less money, especially thanks to television. “

“It didn’t matter much throughout the year. “

Canadian athletes overcame months of obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic to finally collect 24 medals at the Tokyo Olympics. Six of these medals were won by the swim team.

“To see the Canadian swimmers perform like this despite the uncertainty throughout the year, it gives us some comfort,” said Rivard. It gives us confidence. If they did, we can do it too. “

Despite everything, Rivard does not have a specific goal in mind for Tokyo. It is too difficult to make projections since she has not faced her opponents since the start of the pandemic. She believes, however, that the times she hopes to register will be enough to stand on the podium and possibly smash world records.

Rivard will compete in five individual events and one relay at the Paralympic Games, which will take place from August 24 to September 5.

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