#7 ⇢ Olympian Spotlight: Karine Thomas (CAN)

Karine (middle), Anita and I at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Karine (middle), Anita and I at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Karine and I competed against each other at several competitions, including the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games and the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. Karine started doing synchro in Canada at the age of 10 and by the time she was 13 years old she had already moved away from home to better her synchro career. At 16 she was a part of the Canadian Junior National Team and immediately after competing at her first international competition (2006 Junior World Championships) she was recruited to be on the senior roster and competed on the elite level until her retirement in 2017.

I had a few questions for Karine about her synchro career, Olympic experiences, and life after sport. I hope you enjoy her story!

1) What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in sport and how did you do it?

My biggest challenge throughout my career was to believe in myself and my abilities. I’ve never been a very confident human and always had to fight with the little voices inside my head telling me I’m not good enough. Something I did (and still do) to conquer that was to talk to myself as if I were talking to a friend. Having a nicer inner dialogue is key!

2) How were your two Olympic experiences different from one another?

Obviously, competing at any competition, whether in a duet or a team is very different. Being in a duet requires a more intimate relationship with your partner. The goal is to be completely in sync with the other person. Jackie (Jacqueline Simoneau) and I got really close in the three years leading up to the 2016 Olympics. We learned a lot from each other and became good friends very quickly. In the 2012 Olympics I competed in the team event. I still hold all my memories from the 2012 Olympics very near and dear to my heart. It was my first Olympics and everything seemed bigger than life and was almost overwhelming with greatness. It was everything I could have ever hoped it could be... maybe even more.

I loved having a team to share my first Olympic experience with. In preparation for the London Games, we had a very physically demanding training camp and we were in it to "win it" - not the medal, but the performance. We had complete tunnel vision to the moment that we would get to compete at THE Games. We saw the performance as our reward to all our hard work and leaned on each other when the training would be so hard that we didn't think we would make it and the fatigue seemed like it would be too much to handle. Having teammates is everything. I am so grateful for how different and amazing both of my experiences were.

Canada’s technical team at the 2012 Olympic Games

Canada’s technical team at the 2012 Olympic Games

Karine and Jackie at the 2015 Pan American Games

Karine and Jackie at the 2015 Pan American Games

3) Tell us a funny story from training or competition

So many crazy and funny stories come to mind when I look back on my time as an athlete. At my first senior competition, I was 17 years old, and at that age had no problem with (maybe even, dare I say, liked) bending the rules. We were in Melbourne, Australia for the FINA World Championships and most of the members of my team were quite a bit more experienced and older than I was. So, one of the things on the team was that a "healthy diet" was super important to the coaching staff. Needless to say that all our meals were closely monitored as we would make our selection at our hotel's AWESOME buffet. After about 3 days of playing by the rules, I was STARVING, all I wanted was one of the sweets I had been eying from the buffet. So, I made friends with one of the cooks from the hotel. He would generously save me a plate full of all the amazing sweets and after dinner and the team meetings/video sessions, I would run down to the kitchen and get my fix. Well that would have worked out great BUT...my coaches caught me. Of course. I got in a little bit of trouble but not enough to stop me. My next solution: I got my friendly cook to keep sneaking the plate away from the buffet table but instead, give it to my water polo friend, that would later come to my room and deliver my special plate of treats. Moral of the story: you cannot get between me and my food. Also, an overly restrictive diet for a 17-year-old who really didn't need it, is kind of silly!

4) What did you do after retiring? How did you transition from being a full-time athlete?

My transition into retired life has been all but “normal”. I have the surreal opportunity to follow my boyfriend’s professional athletic career and travel/live with him around the world. My (self-appointed) job is to make his life as easy as possible as he focuses on training and playing in tournaments. As we live and travel around the world, I make sure to get in touch with the local synchro clubs to help out and coach new athletes as well as learn more about our wonderful sport. I am also on the verge on receiving a nutrition coach certification. I’ve always been super interested in nutrition and fitness and am very proud of myself for going after something I love.

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5) If you could give advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

The advice I would give my younger self is to trust the process. Do not overthink things or want everything to happen all at once. Keep your head down, work hard and enjoy the ride.

Fun fact about Karine:

Even though she hates-despises-absolutely-loathes being cold, whether that’s in the pool or outdoors, she can not sleep in a warm room. She’s been known to open the window in the middle of winter the get more fresh air in. There’s something about being tucked into a bunch of warm blankets when the air is super cold that feels so comforting!

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