It was her competitive fire that not only put Courtenay Grant back in the pool but on top of the national podium as well.
One of the newest members of the Vancouver Pacific Wave Synchronized Swim Club capped a remarkable comeback by winning the free and technical solo gold medals at the recent Canadian Open Championships in Victoria.
It was almost like Grant had never been away.
The 24-year-old former star with the renowned Calgary Aquabelles believed the final chapter of her distinguished career was when she swam to gold at the 2009 Nationals. She was moving to Richmond to focus on her studies, having enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Bachelor of Design, Fashion and Technology program.
School and living on the West Coast was going well, so much so that Grant's started up her own synchro swim suit design business that instantly attracted customers through her connections. The desire to be in the pool again was gone, at least so she thought.
"When I won gold at the 2009 Nationals I just felt it was a good time to be done," Grant recalled. "I wasn't quite willing to pursue it further with the Olympics and that so I coached the next year which was fun. Then I was going to university full-time out here but I felt was missing something like I lost a part of myself."
Grant wasn't about to pack her bags and head back to Calgary but she found the next best thing with Pacific Wave.
The club's head coach Kara Kalin is also a trans-planted Albertan who grew up in the Aquabelles program and is considered one of best mentors in the country. Kalin was recently named an assistant with the national 13-15 team that will be competing at the 2012 Mediterranean Cup in Spain this summer.
"I told them I wanted to get back in the water and the entire club has been so supportive, from the executive right down," said Grant. "The coaches have been amazing and kicked my butt like you wouldn't believe. Usually at my age, when you have been out (of the water) for even a year, you are like an old horse."
Still, Grant needed the support of her family, fiancé and even the faculty at Kwantlen to pull it off. There were plenty of challenges and long days as she tried to balance studies and work with her suddenly demanding training schedule as she got herself back into competitive form.
She showed she would be a force again by winning the Westerns Canadian Championships in Winnipeg in decisive fashion and her dominance continued at Nationals.
"Luckily it wasn't the technique that went away, just the physical aspect of it," Grant explained. "Being in the sport for 14 years, the technique was still there. I just had to get my strength and cardio which would bring my endurance back. There was lots of stuff in and out of the water including plenty of weight lifting."
Grant is now back in position to be a strong candidate for the senior national team. She has already represented Canada at the junior level, having competed at international competitions in such places as Rome when she was 16.
However, her dream has been realized by proving she still can be the best in the country. Her focus will remain on completing her degree and she also would like to her expand her coaching role with Pacific Wave once she has the time to do so.
"I swam three years for Team Canada and it was an amazing experience," she added. "I would have to be prepared to give up everything and I have already done that.
"I just wanted to finish happy and at peace, knowing when I leave I have made a difference in my life and other people's as well. I always tell the young girls in our club 'how many people in the world and can do what we do? So you hold onto that as long as you can.'
"That's why I wanted to come back.
About the club: The Vancouver Pacific Wave is a regional club that trains out of Delta, Richmond and Vancouver. There will be an number of camps offered over the summer including at the Ladner Outdoor Pool from Aug. 13-17. For more information visit www.vpw. bc.ca.