Emilie Heymans embraces change yet again and result is a fourth Olympic diving medal

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Yahoo Sports

LONDON – Sydney. Athens. Beijing. London. From 18 to 22 to 26 to 30 years old. With a partner, with another partner, without a partner and with yet a third different partner. From the platform to the springboard.

Different places, different ages, different circumstances and always the same result for Emilie Heymans: an Olympic medal.

It’s impressive enough that Heymans became the first female diver to medal in four consecutive Olympics, when she and Jennifer Abel won the bronze in the women’s synchronized three-metre springboard Sunday.

And it was important enough for Canada, which has set the ambitious goal of finishing in the top 12 of the medal count and will not have to agonize for days before getting on the board, as it has in the past.

"I’m electrified,'' said Mark Tewksbury, Canada’s chef de mission. "I’m a little shaky.''

But it’s even more impressive when you understand this history was not made in a straight line. It’s even more electrifying when you see an intense competitor like Heymans – normally stone-faced – smiling in relief that she had done it yet again.

[Slideshow: Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel win Canada's first medal in London]

"It’s awesome,'' she said. "We worked really hard for this, and we’re really glad we did well and it’s finally over.''

The first medal came 12 years ago – silver - in synchronized 10-metre platform, with partner Anne Montminy. The second medal came eight years ago – bronze, in the same event, but with a different partner, Blythe Hartley (who’s here as a television analyst). The third medal came four years ago – silver, in the individual 10-metre platform event.

Before the fourth medal could come Sunday, Heymans had to make some major adjustments in a sport that demands precision and gives you a shot at the big prize only once every four years.

She moved from the hard, stable platform high above the water to the bouncy springboard down below. She partnered with Abel, a talent who had competed in Beijing, but a teenager at the time and an opposite personality. Heymans is quiet, stoic; Abel is bubbly, pumped.

"It was probably not natural in the beginning,'' said Sylvie Bernier, who won gold in the individual three-meter springboard at Los Angeles in 1984 and is Canada’s assistant chef de mission in London. ''But they worked so hard and they got to know each other so well that now they’re just the perfect team''

Abel, who will turn 21 on August 23, said Heymans never tried to pull rank. From the beginning, Heymans insisted this would be a 50-50 partnership. The veteran would work as hard to adjust to the kid as the kid would work to adjust to the veteran.

[Related: Can Canadian swimmer Julia Wilkinson get any love from Justin Bieber?]

Out of the five days a week they each trained in Montreal – both will compete in the individual three-metre springboard Saturday and Sunday – they reserved a full two days for each other and synchro. Abel’s coach, Cesar Henderson, said they spent even more time on synchro over the past three months.

"We have the same values,'' Heymans said. "We have the same goals. We really wanted to make it work. I think for us synchronized diving, we invest both a lot into it, and I think that’s why it worked well.''

As it turns out, they have the same quirks, too. Example: Both want to work quickly. Neither wants to stand on the board, waiting for the announcer to call their names, feeling the nerves.

"We love and hate the same things,'' Abel said.

Heymans was supposed to be the calming influence. She was supposed to steady Abel, reassuring her that though she was young, she was one of the best and she could do it. During a television interview after receiving the medal, Abel said she had a difficult time sleeping Saturday night – not because of nerves but because she had a nightmare that her dog attacked her mother, forcing her to kill the dog. She woke up in tears.

But it might have been the other way around Sunday.

Abel said the first dive was an OK-let’s-do-this dive. The Canadians scored well. They ranked second.

[More: Controversy surrounds swimming world-record]

Then they started to feel the nerves. Actually, it was mostly Heymans, the veteran, who started to feel the nerves.

"She was like, ‘I don’t remember what I have to do with my arms when we walk,’ '' Abel said. "I was like, ‘Well, it’s back, front and back.’ And then we did our dive, our second dive, and it wasn’t that good.''

Heymans climbed out of the pool, sat on the edge and raised her hands to her face.

They ranked fifth. They had three dives left and climbed back up the board.

"I was like, ‘OK, look, we’ve got this,’ '' Abel said. " ‘Just try it. We will do our routine and focus on our stuff. We know what to do.’ ''

The Canadians weren’t perfect after that, but they were focused – even as a rumble of thunder boomed outside during one of their approaches. Helped by miscues by the Italian and Great Britain duos, they rose to fourth after three dives and third after four dives, and they stayed in third after their final dive – a forward 2 ½ somersault with a twist.

[Also: Ryan Lochte steps out of Micheal Phelps' shadow]

Heymans and Abel finished behind China’s Wu Minxia and He Zi, and the United States’ Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant. Heymans had her fourth medal, Abel her first. As they took the podium, they held hands, raised their arms and smiled. In sync, of course.

Though Abel said she hadn’t fully realized what had happened yet, Heymans seemed to soak it up. She still has to dive in her individual event, and she might keep diving for another year. But she knows she will retire soon and will not compete in another Olympics, and she must have considered that this could be her last time on the podium, and that must have been bittersweet.

"Actually, sport is my entire life,'' Heymans said. "It’s what I’ve been doing since I’m six years old. I think I start training at least 20 hours a week when I was seven. It’s a really big part of my life. I think I’m going to carry this baggage for the rest of my life.''

All those medals are precious, and heavy.


Related video from Yahoo! Canada Sports:

More London Olympics content on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Mary Spencer gets a break
Photos: Day two of Canada at the Olympics
Video: Despatie says he's lucky to be in London
Canada’s women’s eight rows strongly into Olympic final
  • Comcast's Fandango ticket service buys MovieClips

    Comcast's Fandango ticket service buys MovieClips

    (Reuters) - Fandango, a movie ticketing service owned by cable company Comcast Corp, is buying MovieClips from Zefr Inc to boost its film-related content. MovieClips, launched in 2009, licenses movie scenes from various studios, puts them up on … More »

    Reuters - 8 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    MUNICH - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed … More »

    The Canadian Press - 14 minutes ago
  • No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA, April 24 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid must put their Champions League ambitions to one side when they look to maintain their surprise La Liga title surge in a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday. They are on the verge of … More »

    Reuters - 18 minutes ago
  • Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    (Reuters) - Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies … More »

    Reuters - 27 minutes ago
  • Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    By Keith Weir MUNICH Germany (Reuters) - Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone denied bribery allegations on Thursday when he went on trial in Germany in a case that threatens to break the Briton's decades-long dominance of the motor sport. … More »

    Reuters - 27 minutes ago
  • Ajax extend ban on fans travelling to Feyenoord games

    REUTERS - Ajax Amsterdam have extended the ban on their fans attending away league games against arch-rivals Feyenoord in Rotterdam following the riotous behaviour of supporters in Sunday's Dutch Cup final. It ends hopes that a five-year suspension … More »

    Reuters - 28 minutes ago
  • Teen Chinese golfer getting used to attention

    One year after his stunning debut at the Masters, Chinese 15-year-old golfer Guan Tianlang is growing accustomed to being in the spotlight. The teenager's star has risen quickly in China since his breakthrough at Augusta National, where at the age … More »

    AP - Sports - 31 minutes ago
  • Bolton Wanderers to rename the Reebok stadium

    (Reuters) - Bolton Wanderers will change the name of their Reebok stadium to the Macron from July as part of a new deal between the Championship club and an Italian sportswear manufacturer. It will be the first change of name for the second tier … More »

    Reuters - 38 minutes ago
  • Protesters rally against FIFA president Blatter

    A handful of protesters holding banners and placards demonstrated peacefully Thursday at an event with FIFA president Sepp Blatter to highlight the plight of migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Blatter was a guest at … More »

    AP - Sports - 39 minutes ago
  • Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson each shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead after the first round of the China Open on Thursday. The pair were a stroke ahead of a group of six golfers that included defending champion Brett Rumford of Australia and … More »

    AP - Sports - 43 minutes ago
  • Golf-Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies and a lone … More »

    Reuters - 52 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media following the Game 2 win over the Spurs. … More »

    NBA.com - 56 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed $44 … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 5 minutes ago
  • Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Yuzuru Hanyu has barely had time to dwell on the Olympic and world titles he won in the first quarter of 2014, yet he's already thinking about how to improve for next season. Hanyu became the first Japanese man to claim Olympic gold in figure … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 15 minutes ago
  • More teams withdraw, Nepal's Everest season in jeopardy

    By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Several foreign climbing expeditions have called off attempts to scale Everest following an avalanche that killed at least 13 local guides, meaning Nepal faces an entire season without a single ascent of the … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 18 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs can expect to be expelled from European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 22 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs will be kicked out of European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs spending more … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 11 minutes ago
  • Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid took a step closer to an elusive 10th European Cup with a 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday and the Spanish side will hope to finish off the job in Germany having shown how effective they … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 44 minutes ago
  • Schalke aiming to seal Champions League spot

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Schalke 04's season could have a happy ending at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday when they hope to claim a Champions League spot after a rollercoaster campaign punctuated by injury problems. Schalke, who … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 55 minutes ago
  • Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    REUTERS - Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is optimistic of returning from injury for the key clash against former team mates and title rivals Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday in a boost for the Premier League leaders. "Hopefully this weekend I'll be … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in Spain on Wednesday. Bayern … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    By Stefanie McIntyre HONG KONG (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has encouraged fans to be optimistic that the World Cup in Brazil will be a success, amid growing concerns over security and public unrest as workers scramble to finish stadiums … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    From his perch with a panoramic view of the world's most famous racetrack, the new voice of Churchill Downs will sit out one of the most anticipated moments of the tradition-soaked Kentucky Derby. Larry Collmus will try to tune out ''My Old … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Wednesday's Sports In Brief

    BOSTON (AP) -- Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected for using pine tar less than two weeks after appearing to get away with using a foreign substance in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Wednesday night. … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    The pine tar glistened on Michael Pineda's neck, improving his grip and inviting trouble. The Yankees' right-hander spoke quietly after being ejected in the second inning of the Red Sox' 5-1 win over New York on Wednesday night. And less than two … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Back on their home ice, the Philadelphia Flyers fizzled on the power play. The Flyers ranked 25th in the NHL in power-play efficiency at home during the regular season, scoring on 15.1 percent of their chances. In Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the New … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Detroit Lions welcome new faces

    Detroit Lions welcome new faces

    Their new coach has been to Super Bowls and the Detroit Lions how have two new players who have championship rings. Free-agent acquisitions Golden Tate and James Ihedigbo - who played on the winning side of the last two Super Bowls - finished their … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Iowa's offense looking to match strong defense

    Iowa's offense looking to match strong defense

    Iowa's defense was back among the nation's elite last season. The Hawkeyes' offense failed to follow suit. Getting both units to play at an equally high level will likely be crucial to Iowa's hopes of competing for a Big Ten West title. The … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    One phenom robs another. … More »

    Big League Stew - 4 hours ago
  • Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    The young Dallas Stars keep overcoming early 2-0 deficits. With their latest comeback in Game 4, they are now even with the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks. Down in the series after losing the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars trailed by two goals in … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Jets returning to SUNY Cortland for training camp

    The New York Jets are holding training camp at SUNY Cortland again this summer, returning to central New York for the fifth time in the last six years. The team trains on the school's campus, located about three hours from the Jets' facility in … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Road teams off to flying start in NBA playoffs

    Road teams off to flying start in NBA playoffs

    Here's the list of teams that had home-court advantage entering the opening round of these NBA playoffs: Indiana, Miami, Toronto, Chicago, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. Here's the list of teams that still held … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Michael Phelps launches comeback in 100 butterfly

    Michael Phelps launches comeback in 100 butterfly

    Returning to swimming after a 20-month retirement, Michael Phelps is easing back into the sport he once dominated by racing one of his best events. The 18-time Olympic gold medalist will swim the 100-meter butterfly at the Arena Grand Prix on … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today: AP's Sports Guide … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer

    The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer

    Kyle Seager and the Mariners bust their slumps in Seattle. … More »

    Big League Stew - 5 hours ago
  • As pitching injuries pile up, Cole Hamels' return gives Phillies shot in the arm

    As pitching injuries pile up, Cole Hamels' return gives Phillies shot in the arm

    With pitchers succumbing one by one to major arm injuries, Philadelphia is thankful Cole Hamels appears healed. … More »

    Yahoo Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Historic canonization of two popes brings joy and controversy

    Historic canonization of two popes brings joy and controversy

    By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Two giants of Roman Catholicism in the 20th century will become saints on Sunday at an unprecedented twin canonization that has aroused both joy and controversy in the 1.2 billion member Church. Pope … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago
  • Historic canonisation of two popes brings joy and controversy

    Historic canonisation of two popes brings joy and controversy

    By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Two giants of Roman Catholicism in the 20th century will become saints on Sunday at an unprecedented twin canonisation that has aroused both joy and controversy in the 1.2 billion member Church. Pope … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago
  • LaMarcus Aldridge has huge Game 2 against Rockets, joins elite NBA company

    LaMarcus Aldridge has huge Game 2 against Rockets, joins elite NBA company

    The Portland Trail Blazers power forward had another incredible night against Houston that put him among the game's greats. That and more on today's Yahoo Sports Minute with Angela Sun - the show that brings you the must-see moments in sports every … More »

    Yahoo Sports Videos - 5 hours ago