Sarnia’s Larissa Loucks was seven years old when she decided she wanted to become an artistic swimmer.
There was nothing half-way about it.
From the beginning, Larissa was a tenacious competitor with a strong work ethic and a determination to excel at a demanding sport that is a whole lot more difficult than it appears.
Last month, at age 16, Larissa and her team won gold in the junior free team event at the Canadian Artistic Swimming Championship in Calgary, an exceptional achievement that speaks to her commitment to her sport as well as the support of her family.
Larissa quietly gets the job done and is very driven, says her dad Doug Loucks.
For years, he and his wife Corinne have made sure their daughter made it to practice at least four times a week, first with the London Artistic Swimming Club where she made the provincial team at the age of 11, and then to Waterloo where she has trained and competed nationally since the age of 12.
A year after taking up the sport – formerly called synchronized swimming – Larissa earned her first medal at a provincial competition in Toronto and was presented with it by two-time Olympian artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau.
“When I saw Larry get that first award, there was such a look in her eyes, we knew she wanted to see where this could go,” said her dad. “You always put your kids ahead of everything and want to see them succeed.”
Jacqueline recalls meeting Larissa for the first time when she presented that medal to her.
“She reminded me of myself at that age,” Jacqueline said. “I saw the drive, the way she was so focused on her sport.”
From that moment, Jacqueline decided she’d stay in contact with Larissa and support her any way she could.
To this day, she’s Larissa’s mentor and marvels at her resiliency and dedication to training 20 hours a week in Waterloo.
“It’s up to Larissa if she decides to try for the Olympics,” Jacqueline said. “But she definitely has it in her.”
Family friend Adrienne Arsenault has cheered Larissa on in sport and in life since the get-go.
Adrienne, co- anchor and chief correspondent of CBC’s The National, is a long-time friend of Larissa’s mom Corinne and is Larissa’s godmother.
“I am so proud of her,” said Adrienne who attends Larissa’s competitions whenever possible.
“She has the heart of an Olympian but there is no pretense about her. Larissa is quietly disciplined. She’s already accomplished more than most of us could dream of but she doesn’t make a big show about it,” said Adrienne.
“I’ve covered seven Olympics now and I’ve played touch football with her at the cottage, and I recognize the traits….she’s a fierce competitor but will celebrate other people’s wins.
“I’d want her to be on my team.”
Adrienne also credited parents Doug and Corinne who she said have a “blistering” commitment to supporting their two daughters in whatever they pursue.
What’s next for Larissa?
She’s off to Quebec this weekend after being selected to try out for the Junior National Team, one step down from the senior team that goes to the Olympics.
If she makes it, she’ll spend this summer training in Montreal.
Artistic swimming isn’t like other sports, Larissa said. It combines dance, swimming, gymnastics and cheerleading, and requires intense precision and strength to perform the routines, half the time under water.
Her team qualified for the Canadian Championships with a fifth-place standing and went into competition in Calgary with little expectation of a gold medal.
“We thought maybe we’d place fifth, not first,” Larissa said. “But we had a really good swim. It was just incredible and we were all so shocked.
“It was exciting for the whole team.”
She is a Grade 11 student at Northern Collegiate and is debating whether she will take a break from artistic swimming to focus on her final year of high school.
“I’m very proud of what we did in Calgary,” Larissa said. “It’s a big accomplishment and a high note to end the season on.
“I would like to make the Junior National Team but I’d also like to spend my last year of high school more normally.
“I really don’t know what I’ll decide at this point but I know I will keep swimming.
“I will keep doing the sport I love.”
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