Posted July 30, 2012

by Lianne Castelino

A huge congratulations to Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel, synchronized diving partners who captured Canada's first medal, a bronze, at the London Summer Games!  Any way you slice it, this is a sport that takes the word 'challenge' and smacks it out of the ballpark a few times.  Consider the criteria - stand on a springboard, 5 metres above water, gracefully cross the board, jump into the air tumbling, rotating and turning and then enter the water with as little splash as humanly possible.  Oh and ya, do all of it in perfect harmony, (mirror image), synchronization with our partner.  Kudos and then some.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Heymans several times during my sports television career, most notably during the course of a lengthy feature piece that focused on all the behind-the-scenes training that this supremely talented athlete -   now the first Canadian Olympian to medal in 4 consecutive games -- does during the 3 years and 12 months of training in between Olympic Games.

It is utterly remarkable.

The start of the piece focused on the gruelling ballet exercises Heymans did (at the time) during her training regimen.  It's an extra step required to ensure gracefulness and fluidity of movement --- before entering the water.

And then the training schedule really toughened up --- with weights, some gymnastics elements and a host of other skills before the actual diving part.

Heymans will tell you she has been training for at least 20 years a day since she was 7 years old.  She had all the makings of a brilliant gymnast, before her calling moved her to diving.

Why am I writing about an incredible Canadian Olympian in a parenting blog?

Exposing children to sports from a young age is so critical.  Some kids are definitely more athletically-gifted than others, some may start off appearing uncoordinated and thus frustrated, but stay with it parent and child.  Let the Olympics be a lesson for every parent --- get your kids into sports early, let them try anything and everything out there and that you can afford and let them find their passion.

You will be giving your kids a gift for a lifetime.

Ask any Olympian.  Ask any professional athlete.  Ask anyone who plays minor league.  Ask any adult who plays recreational sports.  It's a gift that keeps giving back, in so many important ways.

In Heymans case, she has an iron will, is the product of an Olympian (her mother represented Belgium at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal), is an admittedly shy and reserved person who has come out of herself, thanks to sport.

Not to mention the discipline, work ethic, goal-setting and achieving, ability to sacrifice --- and a host of other attributes and lifelong gifts too numerous to mention ---- that sport has granted her.

Such a phenomenal Olympic legacy!