“The feeling I get when I dive into the pool at a competition is what I can only describe as flow. The pain of completing a full swim of a routine is pushed aside by the adrenaline and the roar of the crowd,” Catherine Barrett recalled about being in the water.
“I’m fully focused on the task at hand, but I will admit there’s always a voice inside my head saying, ‘Oh my god we’re competing,’” she added.
At twenty years old, Barrett is one of the members on Canada’s artistic swimming team headed to the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021.
Artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, is a combination of gymnastics, ballet, speed swimming, and for the throws out of the water, diving and cheerleading.
A full swim routine is often described as “running a 400m sprint while holding your breath,” Barrett described.
Barrett was first introduced to the sport of artistic swimming at the age of 10 in her hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“I am a very competitive person and all of the different events help me strive to be the best athlete I could. I love how the sport is so unique and challenging. It really requires full body awareness and fitness,” Barrett said.
As she got more involved in the sport, Barrett made the decision to move to Toronto at the age of 14 for training. A move that would take her away from her parents.
“It was a difficult transition, and I still regularly miss home, but having my whole family’s support behind me, as well as my whole province cheering for me, pushes me everyday,” Barrett recalled.
“I am so privileged to have been able to access the resources that I did and I will not forget everyone that helped me to get to where I am now,” she added.
At the age of fifteen, just a year after first moving to Toronto, Barrett joined the national program for Canada’s artistic swimming team, essentially opening doors for her Olympic dreams.
“It was a steppingstone for all of the future national teams that I made and my first experience with international competition. Since then I’ve been able to travel the world with amazing groups of athletes, coaches and staff,” Barrett said.
“It was admittedly very stressful my first summer taking part in the national team program, but I learned so much and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she added.
Three years later, Barrett was named to the senior national team and made the move to Montreal in order to train at the Olympic Stadium.
“The transition was challenging I knew that I had to move away from Toronto where I went to university previously and leave my friends but I was so thrilled to have finally reached one of my childhood goals,” Barrett reminisced.
The 2018 season ended up being the most successful season Barrett has had.
“I was pushed to my absolute limits competing in a huge variety of events as well as attending my last year of high school full time. That year, I competed in 8 different categories, the most I have ever done,” Barrett said.
“Winning the national titles was amazing. My team and I had been trying for years to break into that #1 spot in Canada and we finally did it. It really tied together all of the work that I did and was a great way to end off my Junior career,” she added.
As part of the national team, Barrett got the chance to travel to Lima, Peru for the 2019 Pan American Games. At the 2019 Games, Barrett’s team won gold and clinched their ticket to the Tokyo Summer Games.
Aside from Lima, Barrett also got the chance to travel to the USA, France, Italy, Korea, and Hungary.
“My favourite international facility is definitely the Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary. It is a massive facility, and so new and modern. It feels like magic every time I walk in,” Barrett said.
On the team headed to the Olympics, Barrett is currently a reserve. As a reserve, she is prepared to replace any of the girls if an injury or illness occurs. She also has training as a flyer and is able to jump into the air as part of the routine.
Barrett feels prepared to jump into a career outside of artistic swimming as the sport has taught her many skills transferrable to life.
“I have learned how to be a team player, work with a variety of personalities, discipline, responsibility, time management, respect and confidence,” she said.
So far, Barrett’s favourite routine has been the Cinderella free combination she swam during the 2018 season.
“It was extremely intricate and physically demanding, however it was also a crowd favourite, and I got to be Cinderella,” Barrett reminisced.
The most rewarding part, though, is getting the chance to represent her country in the sport she loves.
“Being able to represent Canada makes me so incredibly proud. To have the title of being part of Team Canada is so much more than just a single sport national team. It means that the whole country is backing you. It’s a feeling of pride like no other.”