Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
With so many records dropping left and right throughout the swimming competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, it’s difficult to single out one that truly stands out from the rest.
But one of the performances that exemplified rising to the occasion in the biggest of moments came from decorated Paralympian Aurelie Rivard.
Rivard has long been one of the best female S10 swimmers in the world, including winning three gold and one silver medal in the category at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Picking up right where she left off in Tokyo, the Canadian found herself back on the podium three times through the first week of competition, defending gold in the S10 women’s 100 freestyle (in a new world record) and adding a pair of bronzes in the 50 freestyle and the women’s 4×100 free relay.
But her most noteworthy performance came during Day 8 finals, where Rivard obliterated her S10 400 freestyle world record by more than five seconds in a time of 4:24.08.
Rivard, who also won gold in the event in Rio and was the silver medalist at the age of 16 at London 2012, lowered her previous record of 4:29.27, set at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Cairns, Australia.
(Rivard had actually been faster, 4:28.98, earlier this year at a time trial meet in May, but the time wasn’t ratified by the International Paralympic Committee as an official S10 world record.)
In 2019, Rivard swam a time of 4:39.56 at the Canadian Swimming Trials in early April, and then managed a 4:33.96 at the IPC World Series event in Glasgow later that month.
At the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, Rivard, the 2015 gold medalist, settled for silver behind Poland’s Oliwia Jablonska in a time of 4:30.42, with Jablonska the victor in 4:29.65.
After only getting one meet under her belt in February before the pandemic hit in early 2020, Rivard has stayed the course and found herself back on top of the podium with a sensational performance.
Rivard ultimately won gold by over five seconds, with Bianka Pap of Hungary the runner-up in 4:29.75 and Jablonska claiming bronze in 4:33.20.
The 25-year-old Rivard has kept the momentum going since that swim, winning her 10th career Paralympic medal with a silver in the S10 women’s 100 backstroke.