It is not everyday an Olympic medalist walks through the doors at the Waterloo Regional Synchronized Swim Club in Elmira, but last week some 50 members were treated to a talk by silver medalist Lisa Alexander as she told them her story of success and gave them some advice in dealing with the sport they love.
Alexander spent the afternoon with the provincial and national level swimmers and told them stories about her days as a club level swimmer and her 12 years on the Canadian national synchro team.
Competing for Canada, Alexander received a silver medal in the synchronized team event at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She also won a silver medal in duet with Erin Woodley at the 1995 Pan Am Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina and a bronze medal in duet with Kathy Glen at the 1991 World Aquatics Championships in Perth, Australia.
Alexander also lends her name to the largest synchro figure meet in the country, held annually in Ontario for both provincial and national level club athletes. Given that the Lisa Alexander Figure Meet is to be held Dec. 10-11 in Etobicoke, the timing of her visit was ideal, coinciding with the release of the figure draw for the competition. The girls were eager and motivated to get in the pool to perfect their skills.
“You don’t get to compete very much in synchro – it is not like hockey where they might compete too much. This sport takes a lot of skills and the majority of the time we are training, obtaining those skills, and we only have a few competitions to show off all the work that we have done,” Alexander told the girls poolside.
She said the girls should take note of how they feel during competitions and to pay attention to finding that performance level but also how they deal with nerves and what worked in and out of the water.
“You have to pay attention to what you are doing so when the next meet comes up you can really work on that by either calming yourself down, taking deep breaths, warming up a bit longer, or you may even have to hype yourself up a little more. You don’t get many chances to practice that, except at events,” she said.
The highlight for most of the swimmers was being able to see and hold Alexander’s Olympic silver medal, which was passed around during a question period.
Alexander told the girls that they have to make choices when it comes to this sport as not everyone will understand their commitment and they may even lose some friends over their love of synchronized swimming.
“I was lucky I had really good friends who would still include me despite the fact that I was not there all the time,” said Alexander. “You have to make an effort to keep friends, you have to call them to keep in touch; it is a little bit of work.”
Alexander reminded the girls that they were surrounded by friends in the club and told them she was still in contact with girls she swam with at the age of eight as that is the kind of bond that is built in the sport.
“I think the real secret is finding something that you love and really pursuing it to its fullest, which I think these girls have done,” said Alexander as she signed autographs for club members.
The Waterloo Regional Synchronizes Swim Club will be holding a holiday show on Dec. 18 featuring the competitive team. The event is open to the public.