Saturday, December 19, 2009

Portrait: "Sylvie Fréchette"

34" x 40", oil on linen.

86cm x 102 cm, huile sur lin.

Sylvie Fréchette.

Fréchette began synchronized swimming at the age of eight. Blessed with strength, flexibility, and long legs, the young swimmer immediately impressed coach Julie Sauvé.

A member of the national A team from 1983-1996, Fréchette was four times the national solo champion. She claimed 25 gold medals in international competition and held two world solo titles.

What should have been a celebration of her career became another personal challenge for her. Her fiancé tragically passed away just days before she was to leave for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Despite the pain of this loss, she attended the Games and swam the routines of her life. One judge, however, accidentally punched in a mark of 8.7 instead of 9.7. While the mistake was immediately admitted, officials refused to change Fréchette's official score and the champion swimmer was relegated to second place. While she expressed pride in swimming her best, and satisfaction in the silver medal, a messy controversy ensued. Sixteen months later, the gold medal was finally granted to Sylvie.

After this ordeal, Fréchette retired from competition for two years. Her competitive spirit returned, however, as she made a bid for the national team once more in 1994, this time with hopes of having a more enjoyable Olympic experience. The Canadian synchro team claimed silver at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and the satisfied Fréchette retired from competition for good. In 1999, Sylvie Fréchette was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.