Philippe Gagne may only be 18-years-old, but he’s already been diving for nearly 13 years.
“I really liked to jump around all the time and climb everywhere,” said Gagne, who started diving when he was five-and-a-half-years-old. “I liked doing flips, even at that age, on the trampoline. There was this little pool next to where I lived and there were two one metre diving boards. The older kids were always diving and doing flips so I wanted to try too. My mom took me to lessons.”
Those lessons have certainly paid off. On Monday, Gagne was one of six athletes nominated to Team Canada for Rio 2016.
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While this will be the first Olympics for the Ville de Mont-Royal, Quebec native, Gagne is no stranger to international competition. He’s competed at two FINA world cups, a world championship, a Youth Olympics and a Pan Am Games.
Gagne said his first world cup, which came in 2014, was where he realized he had a shot at competing at an Olympics.
“I was 16 at the time and I made the senior team going to the world cup, diving in both synchro events. We came in seventh place with my partner (Francois Imbeau-Dulac) in the three metre and it was at that point we knew the Olympics were possible – not only in synchro but also individually.
“After the Pan Am Games, where I won my three medals, I knew the Olympics were my main goal for the next year. For that to be accomplished is something really, really amazing.”
Gagne won silver in the 3m and 10m synchro events at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto to go along with a bronze medal in the 3m individual event. He also won a silver in the 10m and a bronze in the 3m at the 2014 Youth Olympics.
Gagne returned to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre this past week for Team Canada’s Olympic diving trials, scoring a perfect 10 to win gold in the 3m individual event.
“Right now we’re not really thinking about the Games and getting stressed out,” said Riendeau. “We’re mostly thinking of the preparation. When we get closer and when we’re going to be there, I think it’s going to hit us that we’re at the Olympic Games.”
The two will compete individually in Rio – Gagne in the 3m and Riendeau in the 10m. Imbeau-Dulac and Maxim Bouchard have been named as alternates for the Games, and could qualify if Canada earns more positions.
Diving takes place August 7-20 at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre.