"This is so good!" For an excited Lysanne Richard, this is the first time in exactly a year that the 36-year-old has readied herself to dive from a platform twice the Olympic height. A neck injury sustained in the days prior to the 2017 season kick-off prevented her from competing in her sport, and she had no idea for how long.
The 2016 runner-up to the Women's World Series, three-time mom and circus artist was out of the competition and the doctors didn't believe she'd ever make it back.
"It took a really long time before I could come back and there is still a lot of rehab that I have to do," says Richard. "Now I'm safe to do high diving, but I'm not as strong as before. I have to keep working and go step by step to become strong again."
Taking her first steps on the platform and looking down on the waters of Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, during last week's 2018 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series curtain-raiser, Richard is excited.
"This is high!" she says, and takes a first leap of faith. "I couldn't wait to train and see how my body feels. Now the first training is done. I'm okay, my body is okay and I could find my confidence again. Yes, I think I'm going to be able to dive as well as before."
With six podiums in 12 events, including two victories, she was among the main challengers for the title ahead of the 2017 season, and so her disappointment after the injury was huge:
"Actually, at the beginning I didn't accept the situation and I said to myself 'I just missed the practice of the first competition, okay I just missed the first competition, okay I missed the second, but I'm going to be there after that one'. All summer long, I didn't accept the situation."
Only when the summer was over, she realized that she'd missed the entire season:
"It was really step by step; physiotherapy, physical prep and gradually back to diving and now to high diving. Everything is really positive now."
The ever-smiling three-time mom never lost her positivity on her long way back.
"I think it's a part of me to stay positive. Only when I was in too much pain it was hard to smile," she admits. And for a while, she was the only one who believed in her comeback. "Just last week my medical team confessed that they didn't think I could come back. Being positive helped me a lot to come back from this injury."
During the rehabilitation process, the speaker and TV expert was faced with more time for herself and started to add another aspect to her daily routine – meditation.
"I used that time to connect with myself; I tried to meditate it every day for a short amount of time. This is really about mindfulness and complete presence, conscience, and it has helped me to heal," she explains. "I practiced visualization; about my diving, so I could dive in my head, but also about healing. I'm more calm now and it feels better for me to live like this."
The place for her comeback holds a lot of good memories – a great atmosphere, warm water and the first ever podium.
"Actually my goal is really to enjoy it. I missed the diving and the people so much, that I want to enjoy it, appreciate, and keep learning," she says. "It was really a big fight for me; it was a hard and long year. So, I'm proud of what I've accomplished. Of course, I would like to have a good competition and a good season, but this is already a lot and I want to have fun."
Despite an easier dive list, the Canadian power horse is right back where she belongs after competition one – in the middle of her pack, placed fifth out of ten after 12 months of rehab and with a big smile on her face.
And for everyone involved in the sport, it's great to see her back.
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