In 2019, Mia Vallée feared she would have to give up the Olympics when she decided to attend the University of Miami to continue her diving career.
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But her appeal to school and marine biology, a local specialty, was too important for her to miss such an opportunity. Especially since the Florida establishment offered him a full scholarship to combine his two interests, studies and sports.
Three years later, she has no regrets. She will receive her baccalaureate in a year. She is already thinking of a master’s degree.
Sportingly speaking, the 21-year-old is enjoying her best moments after disappearing from the national scene during the pandemic. In April, she won her first two Canadian senior titles in the 1m and 3m springboards, earning her a first roster for the World Championships in Budapest and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer.
His parents were on site in Victoria. Her trainer Randy Ableman and his wife, whom she considers her “second parents,” had also made the trip from Miami. The emotion was at its peak.
“I didn’t even think about winning, I just wanted to qualify for the World Cup,” said the athlete from Beaconsfield on Monday. “I’ve dreamed of this all my life. It’s really one of the most incredible moments I’ve experienced. I can’t even describe it! »
Last weekend, at the Canada Cup in Calgary, an event on the Grand Prix circuit, Vallée continued her momentum by winning the silver medal in the 3m springboard and the gold in the synchro 3m with Margo Erlam, her young partner Alberta .
“I had never made it to a semi-final at the Canada Cup, where each country is limited to two entrants after the preliminaries,” she said from the airport in Dallas, where she was waiting for a flight to Miami.
“After all these years, it’s very special to finally make it to the semi-finals and win these two medals. It cemented one thing in my head: I’m really on the same level as the best in the world. I realize this for the first time in my life. †
In March, she really picked up speed by taking gold in the 1m and finishing fourth in the 3m at the NCAA Championships, both personal bests. She set a competition record on the smallest hill.
“I had to improve my technique and everything fell into place. Plus every dive was good, I didn’t really miss any. Consistency is so important in our sport. †
“A good decision”
Pure product of the summer baths of the western island of Montreal, where she learned to dive from the age of five, Vallée developed in the Pointe-Claire club. As a teenager she was taught by coach Yihua Li, who notably coached Olympic medalists Anne Montminy and Émilie Heymans.
In 2015 she won three national junior titles. At the World Championships the following year, she finished sixth in the 3m and fourth in the 3m synchro with Olivia Chamandy.
In 2017, however, she took a six-month break.
It was just a mental issue with the diving, the environment, everything around it. I just needed a little step back.
Coach Stéphane Lapointe took her under his wing at the CAMO club. “I knew him very well because I did several races with him. I really liked his way of coaching. So I decided to start again with him. It was such a good decision.”
Seeing his interest in the United States, Lapointe advised him to inquire with Ableman, who was well known in Canada.
Vallée admits he hesitated before crossing the border. While some divers, like Blythe Hartley, have done it successfully, it’s not the traditional route. Most of the best Canadian divers train at the Institut national du sport du Québec, in the Olympic Park.
After a period of adjustment, she immediately felt in her element. “All the athletic and academic support on the same campus, we just don’t have that in Canada. For an athlete like me, it would normally take six or seven years to graduate. Here I do it in four years. †
Vallée continues her preparation for the World Cup in Miami, where she aims for an individual final in the 1m and 3m. The Paris Olympics in 2024? She believes in it more than ever.
“It’s a real possibility, it’s not far-fetched. I think about it very seriously with every workout and start dreaming about it. †