OTTAWA — After representing Canada at the Olympic Games and winning multiple international medals, Chantal Van Landeghem and Dominique Bouchard have decided to hang up their goggles.
Van Landeghem and Bouchard were key parts of the national team as Canada built towards the success of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Winnipeg’s Van Landeghem played a critical role in setting up the Canadian women to a bronze-medal celebration in the 4×100-m freestyle relay at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The national record swim was Canada’s first women’s freestyle relay medal in 40 years.
“Obviously the Olympics were a huge highlight but in general just racing is probably the aspect of swimming I’ll miss most, I just loved that feeling of adrenalin behind the blocks. The opportunity to get to represent my country on the highest stage for me was probably one of the greatest honours of all,” Van Landeghem said.
The 23-year-old from Winnipeg built a solid international resume throughout her career. She made her first national team in 2011, and jumped onto the gold-medal step of the podium twice at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. She set a Pan Am Games and Canadian record to win the 100-m freestyle, and swam the anchor leg of the 4×100-m freestyle relay that won gold and set Pan Am Games and Canadian records. She also swam the freestyle leg of the 4×100-m medley relay that earned silver. Later that summer she added a Canadian record in the 50-m freestyle on the way to a fifth-place finish at the FINA World Championships. But she says it’s not about the medals, which she keeps in storage.
“More important, probably, is I’ll miss all the relationships and friendships I’ve made.”
Van Landeghem graduated from the University of Georgia in 2017 as a First Honor Graduate status with an overall GPA of 4.0, becoming the first UGA student-athlete to win the Dean William Tate Award in recognition of a perfect GPA. She added two more bronze medals to her collection at the 2017 FINA worlds, helping the mixed 4×100-m freestyle and mixed 4×100-m medley relays to the podium in Budapest.
“I wanted to leave on a really high note which I think I’m doing and looking back only with fond memories,” Van Landeghem said.
Walking away from the pool will allow her to focus on her Master’s degree in clinical psychology at the University of Manitoba, which she started in the fall after moving back home. She hopes to be able to contribute to the sport in the future, perhaps as a mental performance consultant.
“I’ve already managed to do some small things on the side with regard to sport psychology. I volunteered at Canada Games this summer in Winnipeg and was able to talk to Team Manitoba athletes,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for me to give back in that way, and over the semester I’ve also been teaching at my old school Vincent Massey Collegiate in sport psychology.”
“Chantal contributed to our 2016 Olympic success in Rio, returning as a relay medalist, and she has performed to high levels at the World Championships and other international competitions,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “I congratulate her on her career and look forward to perhaps working with her in the future.”
Bouchard, of North Bay, Ont., was also a member of Canada’s high-powered women’s swim squad that was named Canadian Press Team of the Year in 2016.
The 26-year-old reached the semifinals in both the 100- and 200-metre backstroke events at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. She also hopped onto the podium at the 2015 Pan American Games where she claimed the silver medal behind Hilary Caldwell in the thrilling 200-m backstroke where the Canadians celebrated a one-two finish. She also swam the morning heats of the 4×100-m freestyle relay and 4×100-m medley relay to earn gold and silver medals. Bouchard then went on to finish sixth in the 200 back at world championships.
“As a whole, 2015 would be my career highlight,” Bouchard said. “I did really well on the Arena Pro circuit, getting first and second in the 100 and 200 at all of the meets. After that being able to be on the podium in front of the home crowd at Pan Am Games, and able to final at the world championships, it was a jam-packed year.”
After such a strong 2015, she was disappointed to finish ninth in the 200 in Rio, leaving her just outside the final. She then just missed making the 2017 team, and her year got even more complicated when she experienced back problems, and then was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in her right leg.
“My leg with the blood clot was almost 3 cm bigger than the other one,” she said. “Would my blood clot have happened on the plane ride there? It sounds cliché but I do think everything happens for a reason. As much as I would have loved to compete and see Budapest it worked out for the best, and Canada represented again really well.”
Although she now has a clean bill of health, the burning desire to train to her limits in the pool had waned.
“I was kind of waiting for that feeling to come back but it never did. I think it was the right time, and Canada’s not lacking any backstrokers,” she added with a laugh, noting Olympic medallists Caldwell and Kylie Masse, who set a world record to win the 100 at worlds this summer, with young swimmers such as Taylor Ruck and Jade Hannah coming on strong.
“I think I did my job in bringing backstroke back to the forefront of Canadian swimming. I made my first senior national final in the summer of 2008 and kind of just stayed there until 2017 basically,” she said. “I gave everything I had to the sport. Maybe I didn’t have the glamorous career I would have liked but I think it all worked out for the best. I think I was able to help some people along the way and maybe inspire some kids from Northern Ontario.”
“Dominique is a driven individual who maximized her performances with the Swimming Canada national team, making finals at the FINA World Championships,” Atkinson said. “I wish her well in her future endeavours and look forward to our paths crossing in the future.”
A four-time All-American while swimming at the University of Missouri, she still holds the school record in the 200-yard back from her second-place finish in 2013. Bouchard has returned to Sudbury, Ont., after completing a Master’s in Health Administration. She is applying to medical schools and has done some youth coaching clinics with Martha McCabe’s Head to Head initiative while contemplating her next move.
“It’s been nice to reconnect with family here and if med school doesn’t work out there’s a few avenues I’m looking at to start a normal person life,” she said. “I’m just taking it slowly.”
“Both Dominique and Chantal will be missed, however, we are all better for their involvement on our national teams,” Atkinson added.