University of Missouri swimmers Abby Duncan and Hannah Stevens kept refreshing the computer. The two were sitting in the Missouri Athletic Training Center, trying to watch the first night of Canadian Olympic Trials.
The swimmers were unable to get the live stream working. The computer said they were in a restricted access zone. Frustrated, Stevens tried refreshing the computer one last time.
The stream started working just as Dominique Bouchard, a Missouri graduate, was walking onto the pool deck nearly 900 miles away in Toronto. Stevens and Duncan would be able to watch their friend compete in the 100-meter backstroke, a spot on the 2016 Canadian Olympic team on the line.
Halfway through the race, Stevens left the room. Watching was too stressful. When she returned, Bouchard had touched second and had qualified for the Rio Olympics.
“I just know all the time and effort she’s put into it,” Stevens said. “When she finally did it, I just bawled for her because I was so incredibly happy.”
Bouchard wrapped up her NCAA swimming career in 2013. Since then, she has trained at Missouri while taking graduate school classes.
She says that her accomplishment has not yet sunk in.
“In terms of feeling like an Olympian, I don’t really feel it yet,” Bouchard said. “I feel like I need to compete to actually call myself that.”
Bouchard also qualified for Canada’s Olympic team in the 200-meter backstroke, her primary event. In 2015, she posted the world’s sixth-fastest time in the event with a 2:08.16.
Missouri assistant John Pontz works closely with Bouchard and traveled to Canada for the meet. He said that, if all goes well for the 24-year-old, she could find herself on the podium in Rio.
“If she’s on her A game and she’s firing on all cylinders, she can go 2:06 and medal,” Pontz said. “And that’s something that we’re going to sit down and we’re going to look over the next training cycle.”
Bouchard, from Ontario, will be one of the oldest members of Canada’s swimming team for the Rio Games. Although she has never been to an Olympics, she feels that other international experience will help her as a leader.
She has already begun mentoring a swimmer: 15-year-old Taylor Ruck. Ruck was selected by Canada to compete on the 800-meter freestyle relay in Rio and is the youngest swimmer on the team.
“I was talking to Taylor, taking her under my wing … I like that stuff,” Bouchard said. “Even though it’ll be my first Olympics, I’m pretty good at not worrying about what the meet is and just kind of going on with my business and doing what I need to do to be successful.”
Bouchard has also become a mentor to Canadian swimming fans. Yvan Bouchard, her father, remembers when she first came up to the stands after qualifying for Rio.
“We certainly gave her a big hug and a kiss and congratulated her, but there was a lot of people vying for her attention,” Yvan said. “Little kids wanted her autographs.”
Dominique Bouchard will train in Columbia until July 22, when she will fly to Toronto for an Olympic staging camp. At the camp, the swimmers will adjust their sleep schedule to accommodate the timing of the events in Rio. Swimming finals will take place at 10 p.m., four hours later than most meets.
At the 2012 Olympic Trials, Bouchard just missed making the Canadian team. She finished fourth in two events and considered retiring from the sport after her senior year in college.
“She decided to take three years post grad and try to make another run at it,” Pontz said. “There was a lot of pressure on her, and I just felt good for her knowing how much hard work she put into this over the last couple of years and how much dedication that she’s had in her life towards reaching her goals.”
Bouchard is not the only international swimmer at Missouri with a chance to make the Olympics. Graduate Mack Darragh earned a provisional spot on the Canadian team, but will not officially be announced until the nation’s 400-meter medley relay qualifies. Aruban freshman Mikel Schreuders earned a qualifying time for Rio and will attend the games if his country decides to send him. Sophomore Jordy Groters, who is also from Aruba, is working to earn a qualifying time.
Juniors Fabian Schwingenschlogl and Nadine Laemmler will have a chance to make the German Olympic team. Schwingenschlogl was the NCAA champion in the men’s 100-yard breaststroke, and Laemmler earned NCAA All-America honors in the 100-yard backstroke.
With Bouchard leading the way, the Tigers could be well represented in Rio.
Yvan Bouchard describes Dominique as a strong student and a role model to young Canadians.
“She’s more than just our daughter,” he said. “She represents something for people. She represents a dream.”
Now she’ll be representing her country, too.