One aquatic pursuit led to another for Duncan’s Jessica de Verteuil, and that led to a gold medal at the BC Summer Games.
De Verteuil, 13 and a Grade 8 student at Cowichan Secondary School, enjoyed a springboard diving class she took at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre several years ago, and wanted to do it again. Unfortunately, there were never enough kids interested for the class to be run again.
Her mother, Jennifer started looking online for classes she could take in Nanaimo, and synchronized swimming came up. Those classes were just once a week for two and a half hours, and the schedule worked great for her mom.
The next year, she was up to twice a week, and now, in her fifth year of synchronized swimming, she goes to Nanaimo four days a week. In 2016, she won the provincial championship with her club team, the Nanaimo Diamonds, and gold at the BC Summer Games with the Vancouver Island team.
“It’s grown on me,” de Verteuil said, admitting the commitment has paid off. “It’s very worth it. I’ve always liked water. I don’t like running very much. It feels like it tires you out.”
De Verteuil was in gymnastics before she got into synchronized swimming, but didn’t like the pressure of competing by herself.
“It’s intimidating,” she said. “There’s this big floor, and it’s just you. In synchro, you’re on a team. I like being with other people so they’re not just looking at me.”
De Verteuil has been swimming with the same team of girls since she joined the Nanaimo Diamonds.
“It’s neat to see girls from different areas and different incidents all come together,” Jennifer de Verteuil said.
Four swimmers from the Nanaimo Diamonds, including de Verteuil, and four from Victoria made up the Island team that won gold in the 13-15 age group at the BC Summer Games, beating out four other teams from across the province.
“It was really cool, but I feel like we deserved it,” she said.
The Island octet practised 135 hours over six weeks in preparation, training seven days a week for the last month, including 12 or 13 days of five hours in the pool. De Verteuil enjoyed working with the Victoria swimmers.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I liked them a lot. I still talk to them. I wish I could swim with them.”
The Victoria club tried to recruit Jessica, her mom said, but she would have to commit to five days a week in Victoria, which would be too much travelling.
The next step in de Verteuil’s path would be the provincial team, and ultimately she would like to make it to the Olympics and potentially get a scholarship to compete with a U.S. university team.
As one of the lighter girls on her teams, de Verteuil gets to be thrown into the air to do backflips during competition, which is one of the highlights of her teams’ routines. What the crowd sees in competition is only part of what is going on as teams are judged on a variety of criteria, including creativity, difficulty, execution and synchronization. They have to match their facial expressions to the music, and take pride in scaring the judges when the music gets more foreboding.
The challenges for synchronized swimmers include holding their breath for a long time, which de Verteuil can do for just over a minute. She has managed once to swim two lengths of a pool without coming up for air. They also have to stay afloat.
“The main move you’ve got to learn is the egg beater,” Jennifer said.
“Or you basically just sink,” Jessica finished.