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Saturday, September 30, 2000
Strangely perfect

Ironic performance in pool wins a bronze


By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

 SYDNEY -- Ironic. Sad. Strange. Perfect. It depends on your perspective.

 But eight Canadian girls won a bronze medal here yesterday because they did all the things Canada hasn't done well at these Olympic Games.

 They ran.

 They jumped.

 They cycled.

 They won a medal.

 Canada's 10th medal at Sydney 2000 came from a bunch of girls who, to save Canada's sinking reputation in synchronized swimming, hit upon the idea of illustrating the sports of the Olympics instead of doing the traditional type of routine.

 The gold was gone to Russia and the silver to Japan with a host of 10.0s to both nations when captain Kirstin Normand of Edmonton and her friends who spent two years training together in Toronto showed up on the pool deck sans designer swimsuits, sequins and such.

 "It was really risky,'' said Claire Carver-Dias of Mississauga. "No one had ever done sports before.''

 They hurdled, high jumped, performed a gymnastic dismount, a taekwondo kick, a volleyball serve, an archer's shot, and the crowd of 12,000 exploded when Carver-Dias emerged from the water as a cyclist.

 "The cyclist is the last one we made up,'' said Catherine Garceau of Toronto of putting the program together.

 They were coached on all the routines by actual Canadian Olympic athletes or coaches. A lot of people who didn't win medals here had a little piece of this one.

 People make fun of synchro swimming a lot.

 But not this time.

 It hasn't felt so good to be a Canadian synchro swimmer at the Olympics since Carolyn Waldo and Michelle Cameron gave Canadian athletes a reason to wear their colours and cheer again by winning Canada a gold in Seoul in '88 after they'd taken Ben Johnson's gold away.

 Four years ago in Atlanta there was huge controversy when judges gave the Americans the gold and Canada the silver.

 It was a travesty.

 Four years later Canada had to come from back in the pack to salvage a bronze and there was absolutely no controversy as Russia won gold, Japan silver and the Americans finished fifth.

 "The judging was very fair,'' said Jacinthe Taillon of St-Eustache, Que. "In the past the U.S. has been first. They were fifth this time.''

 Until Sydney the Americans had won a medal at every single major international competition in the history of the sport.

 Normand cried watching the Canadians get robbed of gold four years ago, watching TV at home in Edmonton.

 The captain had been the last cut of that team which trained in Edmonton.

 She decided to go back for four more years and was fighting back tears to have won a medal, any medal.

 "I had a picture of the Sydney Opera House above my bed as a constant reminder of where we were going,'' she said in the post-podium press conference.

 Normand had the best perspective of all when it came to what happened here.

 "I saw both ends of it,'' she said about a team which deserved to be on the top of the world and then had to battle to get back up with the countries that had meantime taken over the sport.

 "I'm fighting to hold back the tears, this feels so good. I couldn't be more proud of all these girls.''

 Normand captained the team which included Lyne Beaumont of Ont-Rouge, Que., Carver-Dias, Erin Chan of Calgary, Garceau, Fanny LeTourneau of Deux-Montagnes, Que., Taillon, and Reidun Tatham of Calgary.

 "It's tough looking down at this medal. I'm speechless,'' said Normand. "This is an Olympic medal. It's not just a medal. This is the big one.

 "People will never know how tough this was to win. The sport has changed since we'd just show up and get a medal. We had to battle back and work at this together for two years, training together in Toronto, for this to happen.''
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