Rhiannon Leier Blacher has been making waves for a long time. Representing Canada from 2000 to 2004 as part of the Canadian National Swim Team, she competed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Over the course of her career, she has won 13 national titles and 19 international medals, and was named the 2004 Canadian Female Swimmer of the Year. Now Assistant Head Coach of the Saint James Seals Swim Team and a staff member of the Marketing Communications Office at the University of Manitoba, Leier Blacher continues to make a lasting impact both in sport and in the community.
With the 2017 Canada Summer Games just under two years away, and major upgrades just announced for the Pan Am Pool, we sat down with the former Olympian to discuss how her experiences training at this landmark facility and competing at the 1993 Canada Summer Games in Kamloops helped position her for future success.
What was it like to train at the Pan Am Pool as a young athlete, and how important are facilities like it for long-term development of athletes’ potential?
The size and reputation of the Pan Am Pool was always impressive to me as a young athlete. At one time the Pan Am Pool was known as one of the fastest short course pools in North America due to its depth and width. Being able to race and train in fast pool helped my development as a swimmer.
A facility like the Pan Am plays a large role in the development and success of athletes in our province. It's ability to host national and international events attracts more people to the sport and the quality of the facility helps keep our best athletes and coaches in Manitoba.
How did your experience at the Canada Games help prepare you for future international competitions, such as the Olympics?
The Canada Games was my first introduction to a multisport event. Having the opportunity to represent Manitoba mimicked some of the the excitement and pressure of representing Canada on the Olympic stage.
Additionally, as with all multisport games experiences, there are many more distractions, much more community attention and ceremonies that can cause you to lose focus. Having the opportunity to experience this on a smaller stage like the Canada Games is a great way for a young athlete to eventually prepare for it on the international stage.