As Quebec artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau prepares to compete at her second Olympic Games, her family won’t be in the stands cheering her on.
Due to the pandemic, athletes’ families weren’t allowed to accompany them to Tokyo.
For Simoneau’s mother, Lynda South, it’s disappointing not to be there.
By South’s count, she’s missed only a handful of competitions in her daughter’s career, and the Olympics isn’t just another swim meet.
“It’s actually a little heartbreaking. It’s really tough, especially after that experience in Rio. You’re sitting in the stands, you see the Olympic rings, you know your daughter swam under those Olympic rings. It’s amazing.”
While Simoneau competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, in the women’s technical duet event, she and her teammate Karine Thomas finished in seventh place. Simoneau now competes with Claudia Holzner.
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Despite having to stay home for the 2021 event, South says she’s still tapped in to the excitement of it all as she watches from her home in Montreal.
“I get the goosebumps. I get the adrenaline going already, the excitement. And I think it’s just amazing for my daughter to do her second Olympics. It’s going to be an amazing experience,” she said.
South already had tickets to Tokyo booked, along with Simoneau’s boyfriend Steven Findlay. But they were forced to cancel the trip when they learned fans were not allowed to attend the events.
“It was a huge, huge heartbreak to have to let all that go,” said South.
“It’s definitely tough,” added Findlay. “The biggest thing I wanted was to be in the stands and for her to compete, to be able to wave to her and support her — know that we are physically there cheering her on and helping her achieve her goals.”
WATCH | Nothing beats supporting from the stands, family says:
Findlay was determined to see Simoneau compete in person. So he and South booked a last-minute trip to the Hungarian Open in early July, where Simoneau won five medals.
“To see her on the podium and get these gold medals was such a proud moment,” he said.
South said the trip helped fill some of the void of not going to Tokyo.
“I sobbed like a baby when she swam. It was just wonderful,” she said.
South says she talks to her daughter every day, and feels closer to her with the help of a very special teddy bear.
“I got her a bear, and we called it the best little bear, so that before she swam she could give a little bear a hug and it was my hug to her,” said South.
There are three of these stuffed bears in the family: one stays at home with South, the other travels with Simoneau’s father who is often away on business, and the third one Simoneau keeps in her bag at all times.
South said the small gesture helps her feel connected to her family who is far away.
Jacqueline Simoneau will compete Monday at 6:30 a.m. ET in the artistic swimming duet free routine preliminaries along with her teammate Claudia Holzner. Watch the livestream on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website. Check out the full streaming schedule here.