Humbly Leading Canada to Great Heights in Synchro Swimming

Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon’s Great Year

Canada’s synchronized swimming team is on the rise back to the top of the world. One hint came in Beijing, where the team finished a solid 4th at the 2008 Olympic Games. One of their strongest swimmers and deepest veterans is Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon, who has helped lead the resurgence. (Though she would never tell you that).

Her (and the team’s) medal collection of late helps illustrate the direction the national synchro program is headed. First, at the 2009 World Championships, she won two bronze medals in technical solo and combo events. She was also 4th in duet and with the team in both free and technical events. The stage was set.

She won four gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the 2009 FINA Trophy. At the 2010 Japan Open she won three gold and two silver medals. Later, at the China Open, she captured two gold medals. At the FINA World Cup, she was a silver and triple bronze medallist. Most recently at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Boudreau-Gagnon was golden in both the solo and duet events.

The Rivière du Loup, Que. native says the team has built off the bronze and 4th-place results from the last World Championships. “We are now more confident,” Boudreau-Gagnon told “We’re putting a lot into the program now.”

What’s also in the program now, she said, is coach Julie Sauvé. The coaching legend helped guide Sylvie Frechette and Penny and Vicky Vilago to Olympic synchro medals. Sauvé has brought a focus on artistic and technical fine points to boost the young team’s overall skill.

“We all believe in her,” Boudreau-Gagnon said. “She knows what the judges want to see and she is not scared to shock the judges and bring new material.”

Synchro, like gymnastics, draws athletes who have artistic flare. It is blend of sport and performance. It requires long spells of training (often 48 hours a week) and fitness that targets cardio and strength in the core and upper body. The movements in synchro are lightening fast.

“It’s a sport where you can really push your limits, and I’m a girl who really wants to fight my limits,” Boudreau-Gagnon said.

Though she’s an Olympian and has competed at many World Championships, Boudreau-Gagnon says she doesn’t feel like the team’s leader. “We are a team and I am part of it,” she said, adding that is a younger team with a “lot of guts” and one that can smell an Olympic medal.

She is also currently Canada’s swimmer who performs the solo. Such a swimmer needs to be technically precise and in complete control, as the judges’ eyes watch only her. It is generally each country’s best synchro swimmer.

“Solo is all your own strength and you push your limits,” she said. “For duet you need to have chemistry with your partner. It is complex and fast movements. It’s quite hard. And team is blending eight girls together. It takes a lot of training to be the same as another girl at the same moment.”

The Road to London 2012 begins in earnest next fall at the Pan American Games. There, in Guadalajara, the team will aim for gold, which books a pass straight to London. There, at what would be Boudreau-Gagnon’s second Olympic Games, she said Canada will be out for podium spots. “We want to perform at our best. We want to put everything into it and have no regrets.”

The humble synchro star finished by adding that she wanted to thank her family for their invaluable support. “We need good parents, a good family, to be an athlete at this level.”

With that, happy holidays.