She is a 6-3, 170 pound missile in the water.
One of the nicest young women you will ever meet on dry land.
We are speaking about 22 year old Winnipegger Chantal Van Landeghem who will present Canada at the Rio Olympics in the pool in the 50 and 100 Metre Freestyle events as well as a 4 x 100 freestyle relay.
“I’m there to get experience, but also I’m there to get a job done. In the 50 free, especially, it’s so close and anything can happen. So I don’t want to limit myself and say that at the end of a day a medal isn’t possible for these Olympics. So, it’s something that’s definitely a possible goal in my mind.”
Chantal knows all about the razor thin strand that separates joy and disappointment at the elite level of swimming. In 2011, she missed qualifying for the 2012 London Games by .01 of a second. And yes, she considered briefly throwing in the towel. But it’s no surprise this “water baby” quickly regained her focus.
“My dad took me to the Pan Am Pool when I was just a couple weeks old. I spent almost as much time there as I did in my actual house. It was something to keep us busy during the day. Me and my sister both fell in love with it, which is why we continued with it,” said Van Landegham.
Dad is Wayne who works with kids. The Vanlandeghem clan also includes Mom, Dinah, who works for Manitoba Public Insurance and younger sister, Tia, who is going into her 3rd year at the University of Pittsburgh.
Chantal took this past year off from the University of Georgia, where she has helped the Bulldogs win back to back NCAA titles in 2013 and 14. But after the Olympics, the honors student will be returning to school to complete her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Science.
Last year Van Landeghem made national headlines at the Pan Am Games in Toronto when she captured Gold Medals in the 100 free and as an anchor of the Canadian 4 x 100 frees relay team, setting Games records in both events. So when exactly was it that the Vincent Massey Grad and 2011 Manitoba Female Athlete of the Year realized she was faster than the rest of the kids in the pool.
“I’m going to say 12. That’s when I made my first junior national team and I kind of realized that swimming was more than just something I loved to do, I was actually pretty good at it.” said Van Landgehem.
And how did she choose which event to compete in? Well Chantal credits some sage advice from her former Manta Swim Club Coach Tom Hainey for “steering her down the right lane.”
“The stroke chooses the swimmer, the swimmer doesn’t choose the stroke. So because I was so tall and my freestyle technique kind of just developed as I developed, sprint freestyle was something that just made sense for my body type. Tom was super careful never to limit me, much to my disappointment, he had me swimming everything up until I was 16-17. I think it’s really important to swim as much as you can; distance events, IM events, just because you don’t want to specialize too early, it’s not fun and I think it’s better for race development to swim a little bit of everything.”
And in keeping with that idea, here’s a little bit of something to know about Chantal van Landeghem. Her favorite TV Show is Friends, her guilty pleasure is watching the Bachlorette and eating chocolate. She loves Pasta, Brad Pitt is her favorite actor and while she doesn’t have a preference when it comes to music, in her words, “whatever’s on the Radio”, she does like Justin Bieber. Which leads us to Chantal revealing something about herself that perhaps not many people outside of her family and circle of friends and teammates would know.
“I sing all the time, I don’t know why, it’s just something I love to do, but I’m absolutely awful at it. So anyone who’s around me will tell you that I love to sing, but probably shouldn’t.”
An off key rendition of O Canada would be just fine, and music to all our ears if Chantal Van Landeghem makes it to the podium in any of the finals of her events- scheduled for this Saturday, or during the second week of competition.