Canadian diver Lysanne Richard soars above the competition

Click to play video: 'Montreal woman hopes to get extreme high diving into the Olympics' Montreal woman hopes to get extreme high diving into the Olympics
Lysanne Richard is the top female high diver in the world. She doesn't compete from a board or a platform. She jumps from 20 to 23 meters. Mike Armstrong tags along for a training session – Jan 23, 2017

Lysanne Richard starts her training at Montreal’s Olympic pool by walking out the exit door.

The 35-year-old diver doesn’t jump from the diving boards, or even one of the three diving platforms.

Instead, she climb 38 steps and two ladders, to a perch 17 metres above the surface of the water. Standing on a small board affixed to the rafters and made specifically for her training, she says fear isn’t a factor.

Richard competes in international high diving. There are six events each year organized by Red Bull, and two put together by FINA, the International Swimming Federation.

This past December, Richard was honoured by FINA as the best female high diver in the world at an event held in Windsor, Ont. (Michael Phelps was also on hand, named Male Swimmer of the Year.)

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The sport has taken the mother of three around the world. Last year alone, she competed in Japan, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Practicing her sport isn’t easy. There are no indoor facilities in the world that allow divers to jump from the competition height of 20 to 23 meters. Montreal’s Olympic pool has built a platform for Richard to jump. It’s believed to be the highest indoor platform in the world.

“I’m the only one to use it,” she says. “Other countries are going to want to come to train. It’s pretty great that they did this.”

High divers have to land feet first. It’s too dangerous to land head first. The impact is too strong for the diver’s neck and head. But even going in with your feet, the sport can lead to serious injuries.

“If you’re just a little off, just five degrees, you can break your coccyx,” her coach Stephane Lapointe said. “Regular diving you can fail a dive. High dive, you have no margin for error. You have to land straight every time. Every time.”

Richard was a platform diver as a teen, then went into circus acrobatics. She was part of Cirque du Soleil for several years. High diving is a combination of the two, she says. The diving helps with the flips, while the acrobatics helps her always land on her feet.

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“In the air, we feel like it’s long than in real time,” she said. “Like there’s kind of a slow motion in our feeling. I have time to think about corrections, so it feels like time is a bit stretched.”

Richard’s dream is to get the sport into the Olympics. She says the sport is made for TV, and crowds love it. As a teen, she dreamed of competing for Canada at the Olympic Games.

“If I get a second chance, why not!” she said.

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