Burlington’s Rampling in sync with Olympic goal

The 2008 Summer Olympics are set to begin in Beijing and a number of athletes representing Canada have roots in the Hamilton area.

Isabelle Rampling
Birthdate: June 24, 1985
Hometown: Burlington
Residence: Montreal
Club: Montreal Synchro
Years on National Team: 6

Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon
Birthdate: March 3, 1983
Hometown: Rivière du Loup, Que.
Residence: Montreal
Club: Montreal Synchro
Years on National Team: 10

Canada’s premier synchronized swimming duet of Burlington’s Isabelle Rampling and Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon of Rivière du Loup, Que., has a combined 16 years of national experience. The more senior member, Boudreau-Gagnon who has been a national team member for 10 years, was drawn to the performance sport at the age of seven while watching Olympic gold and silver medallist Sylvie Fréchette compete in the 1990s. Boudreau-Gagnon quickly developed a passion for synchro and her determination to improve has been the key to her success in the pool.

Isabelle Rampling is another star of the synchro program, and duet partner of Boudreau-Gagnon. Her aquatics involvement began with lifeguarding but she was too young to move up levels for lifeguard courses. At the YMCA in Burlington, a synchronized swimming instructor approached Rampling’s parents and suggested that she enrol in a local club. The rest, as they say, is history. Rampling shares with her partner the inspirational role model of Sylvie Fréchette, having read her book and met the athlete just before the 1996 Olympic Games.

Competing for Canada since 2003, Rampling’s first big experience was the 2005 World Championships in Montreal. Like her partner, she finished fifth in Team and fourth in Combo. Rampling had a busy 2006, competing at seven tournaments across the globe, none bigger than the 2006 World Championships in Japan where she mimicked her results from the year before. In 2007, marking her third straight World Championship appearance, Rampling once again finished fourth in Combo and sixth in Team. At the 2007 Pan American Games, she won two silvers in Team and Duet.

In August, they will compete in their first Olympic Games. The duet, along with the Canadian Team, earned a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games at a qualifier that took place in Beijing in April. (They finished fourth.) The pair will have to be near-perfect because there is stiff competition in the event from Russia, Spain and the U.S. Their new routine will help, having impressed the judges at that tournament – it incorporates a dragon theme and the two have been honing it since October. Rampling has said that while in Beijing she absorbed the details of the venue so she could mentally prepare – visualize – the coming Olympic competition, which will be the biggest moment of both their careers.

But Boudreau-Gagnon and Rampling have competed in many huge international competitions before this. They first partnered in 2005. The Duet captured a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the same year they finished sixth at the World Cup – one of synchro’s three major competitions (with the Olympic Games and World Championships). In 2007, they won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Rio. And this year has gotten off to a great start. In February they captured gold at the Russian Open Synchro Cup – in a country that has highly skilled swimmers. And with their fourth-place finish in Beijing in April, they qualified for the Olympic Games. These provided important practice for competing on the world stage.

Boudreau-Gagnon’s career launched in 2001 when she finished fourth in Team at the Junior World Championships. Her first major senior competition came at the FINA World Championships in 2005. Before a wild crowd in Montreal, she helped Canada finish fifth in Team and fourth in Combo while placing sixth in the Solo event. In the past three years, apart from her Duet success with Rampling, Boudreau-Gagnon won a gold medal in Solo at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She placed fifth in Solo, fourth in Combo and sixth in Team at the 2006 World Cup. She led the Team to a sixth-place finish at the 2007 World Championships and finished fourth in Combo. And last year at the Pan American Games she won silver in the Team event.

In Beijing, Boudreau-Gagnon and Rampling will hit the biggest stage but won’t be just happy to be there. Their aim is a medal.