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Canada's Olympic hopefuls have had to make do with their training facility in Montreal

Canada's Olympic hopefuls have had to make do with their training facility in Montreal

Artistic swimming athletes in Canada use the pool at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal. Athletes say the dimensions are smaller than an Olympic swimming pool, which poses a challenge. (CBC – image credit)

The main sports training complex in Montreal's Olympic Park will be closed for longer than initially expected after a devastating fire, meaning Olympic and Paralympic athletes will need to train for the Paris Games elsewhere.

The upcoming Paralympic and Olympic national trials, scheduled at Montreal's Olympic swimming pool from May 13-19, will have to be held at a new location.

The Olympic Park revealed on Wednesday that the sports complex will remain closed for between four and six months due to a fire that broke out on March 21.

Swimming Canada aims to maintain the same dates for the National Trials and is actively seeking an alternative location within the Montreal area.

The chosen venue must have a 50-metre swimming pool, sufficient capacity for both participants and spectators, and facilitate broadcast of the event.

In the coming days, the governing body will meet with key partners to determine next actions, and expects to share a comprehensive plan by next week.

The sports complex and all 14 floors of the Olympic Stadium tower were affected by the fire. (Radio Canada)

Meanwhile, the head of the Quebec Swimming Federation is scrambling to find a backup training venue.

Francis Menard said the timing is difficult for the athletes – it is the last stage before the Olympics where they should just focus on performing well rather than worrying about changing positions.

Among the displaced is the national technical swimming team. Athletes from this team use the swimming pool located at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal.

“It's a tough time right now as we prepare for the Olympics,” said Kerry Morgan, chief sports officer for the Canadian Artistic Swimming Federation.

He described the situation as “total chaos.”

“We take water whenever we can get it. Some days we start earlier. Some days we start later. Some days we have more time. Some days we have less time.”

Lorianne Embou, a Quebec City native, has been with the team for two years.

“We're a really good team at adapting to different types of situations,” she said. “So this is a good thing for us.”

Laurianne Embo, of the Canadian Artistic Swimming Team, says her team is resilient.Laurianne Embo, of the Canadian Artistic Swimming Team, says her team is resilient.

Laurianne Embo, of the Canadian Artistic Swimming Team, says her team is resilient.

Lauriane Embo, of the Canadian Artistic Swimming Team, says her team is able to adapt to change. (CBC)

She said that competitions are held in different pools and it is important to be able to adapt, but it is a shame not to train at the National Sports Institute (INS) at the Olympic Stadium.

“This is a beautiful place,” she said. “This is a difficult thing.”

Her colleague Jacqueline Simoneaux said the situation is not ideal, but we are a resilient team.

The pool's dimensions — length, width and depth — are significantly smaller, which poses a challenge, she said.

She explained that the referees include the number of meters the team moves around the pool in their decisions about scoring.

“Here, we have a smaller group, and we will train by moving less,” she said. “When it comes time for the Olympics, we'll need to be able to go that extra mile, which we're not used to doing here.”

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Simoneaux said it's best to train in an environment that fully represents what they will face in competition.

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