Guylaine Cloutier is looking forward to returning to Atlanta.
Her time of 1:09.48 in the 100 breaststroke at the Pan Pacific Championships not only earned her a silver medal, but also a berth on the Olympic team next year. So far, she is the only Canadian woman to have made an Olympic preselection time.
"A best time and an Olympic preselection," she said, smiling. "I couldn't ask for better."
Guylaine made her first National Team appearance 10 years ago as a 13 year-old when she competed at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo. A decade later, she's glad she stuck around.
I think I have everything I need right now," she said. "In '92 I didn't have everything. My coach couldn't be on deck with me, and things were just more complicated. Financially it was a lot harder. That all got better last year."
A two-year sponsorship deal with Cascade PSH, a Quebec-based health and hygiene products company, has made life a lot easier. Guylaine has full financial support (food, clothing, and living expenses) for the duration of the deal, including a car. She also has a one-year marketing job with a second year option waiting for her in September 1996. Guylaine is currently finishing up a degree in commerce at the HEC (Hautes Etudes Commerciales) in Montreal.
Guylaine talking strategy with her coach at poolside in Atlanta.
For larger 56k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
The fact that her personal coach, Stéphane Bédard, could be on deck with her in Atlanta, meant a lot to Guylaine. "It's true that at 23 you don't need the coach to be there all the time. I even do a lot of my workouts on my own (Bédard's main job is with New Look Eyewear). But I think he deserves to be there when I perform well. It really helped me to have him here."
As a veteran on the Canadian team, Guylaine has been around long enough to have some pretty clear ideas as to what the sport means to her. When it comes to doping, she says, "I think it's really too bad because the errors of the Chinese and any others make us look bad. Many times people have asked me jokingly (if I'm on drugs), but even when they say it in jest I know it's because they have actually thought it at some point in time."
"I think it's a good thing that the Chinese aren't here," she added. "When I think of the Olympics I don't think about the Chinese. You never know with them. In my head they are not real athletes like me."
Guylaine is one of many athletes to have signed the anti-doping petition currently being circulated by American backstroker Jeff Rouse. "I think we need to fight this," she said. "I don't think it's up to the people outside of swimming to do something about the situation. It's up those of us who are directly implicated to demonstrate that we want change."
As to whether the 200 breaststroke will be on her program in Atlanta next time around, Guylaine is hopeful.
"For me, the 200 is a question of personal confidence. We focussed on the 100 this year, but anything is possible. I look at it as having half of it behind me, and the other half is to come."
Plans for this fall include a trip to Rio de Janeiro to compete in the World Short Course Championships.
"My objective this year is to break the Canadian short course record for the 100 breaststroke. I know I can do it. I think when you swim without thinking, things always go better, in my case at least!"