Dominique Bouchard: Determination Pays Off

Swimming Canada-heats-6apr2016. Photo Scott Grant
Photo Courtesy: Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

By Rick Madge

Dominique Bouchard of the Oakville Aquatic Club still remembers the 2012 Olympic Trials. In the 200 backstroke, she did a personal best and beat the tough FINA qualifying time by more than a second. But that was only good enough for 4th in a ridiculously strong field. In fact, her 2:09.70 Trials time would have placed her 10th in the Olympic heats. She also finished 4th in the 100 backstroke with another PB, barely missing the qualifying time.

In her words, she was very disappointed and kind of sad, and wasn’t sure if she wanted to do this any more. But she had 1 year of NCAA left with the University of Missouri, so she took some time off after the trials to reflect and re-evaluate. Did she want to keep up the insane training schedule and the rigorous life style?

Dominque took all of 3 weeks off. And then she was back in the water training again.

To help get her spirits up, her coach talked her into tracking and rating her daily workouts in the areas of effort, mental status, and performance. As the summer progressed, she noticed her numbers rising, and that gave her the confidence to focus back in at the intensity level that elite competitions demand. And it worked, she was 2nd at the NCAA in the 200 backstroke.

That’s when she faced her next decision point: swimming after university. As she put it, this marked the transition from the relatively easy and focussed life of a university athlete, to the more difficult life of a post-university swimmer. Or as she put it, she “had to start viewing my career more as a professional”.

She made her decision, and started training as hard as ever, going to the 2014 Pan-Pacific / British Commonwealth Trials with the hope of making the team. That wasn’t to be. She finished 4th again in both the 100 and 200 backstroke events, beaten again by Canada’s world class women’s backstroke leaders.

However, Sinead Russell had to pull out of the backstroke events for health reasons, and Dominque found herself on the Pan-Pacific team going to Australia. But she had this nagging doubt. She didn’t make the team the normal way, so maybe she didn’t really belong there. And here’s where her determination really kicked in. She decided she was there, and she was going to do well. There was no reason not to. Dominique ended up making finals in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, with PBs in both events.

In her words, this marked the point where everything started rolling. In 2015 she won both the 100 and 200 at the PanAm / World Championship Trials, won a silver at PanAm Games in the 200 backstroke and finished 6th in that race at the World Championships.Things were definitely rolling, and things were definitely looking good for Olympic Trials in 2016.

And then Kylie Masse came along. In 2015, Kylie was a strong third place at the Trials with a 1:00.50. But over the last year, her 100 has quickly become devastating, and by the time the Olympic Trials came along, Dominique knew she was fighting for 2nd place with some excellent competitors, such as Hilary Caldwell, who finished 3rd in the 200 back at the 2015 World Championships in Barcelona.

But this was now a different Dominique. She was more experienced, more mature, and definitely more determined. She went into the finals of the 100 knowing she needed to take it out faster than she would like, and then hang on. And she did, finishing 2nd and easily making the Olympic qualifying time.

I asked her one last question, and I absolutely love her answer.

Which is more important: confidence or determination?

Here’s what Dominique said. “Determination provides the foundation for confidence.”

She has the 200 backstroke coming up on Sunday, and is clearly both determined and confident going into that race.


  1. avatar

    “Determination provides the foundation for confidence.”

    Love the above. GO DOM – GO CANADA – GO TIGERS

    M I Z…