A pioneer in the pool

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies August 2 1999
A pioneer in the pool

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies August 2 1999

Opening Notes

A pioneer in the pool

Tanya Davies

Prévost: synchronized swimming is a ‘passion' for the champion

Montreal student Robert Prévost is bravely going where not many men have gone before—the synchronized swimming pool. For the past eight years, Prévost, 19, has been floating, spinning and competing in what is typically a female domain. Last month, at the 1999 Masters Canadian Championships in Burnaby, B.C., he nabbed top marks in the solo category—a first for a man. He also joined a group of female synchronized swimmers from a St. Bruno, Que., club for a team demonstration. “I’ve heard jokes since I was 11 years old,” Prévost says of competing in a female sport. “You create a wall around yourself and you don’t hear what people say.”

A former competitive swimmer, Prévost took up the sport of synchro to augment his training. But he became hooked by the beauty of it and synchro became his primary interest. It was daunting at first, he concedes, being the only male in a class of girls. “But they accepted me very quickly,” says Prévost, who now trains 10 hours a week with Montreal’s Aquatique Edouard Montpetit Club. He choreographs his own routines and also takes part in team events—though he passes on the sequined swimsuits and hairpieces, wearing instead a Speedo and the prerequisite noseplugs. He has won several competitions at the provincial level. Being a male syn-

chro swimmer has advantages and disadvantages, according to Prévost. He believes he has strength and speed in his favour, though he contends that women float more easily.

Prévost, who is planning to study computers this fall, now wants to step up to the elite level and compete at the Canadian national championships in May, 2000. (Currently, men aren’t eligible for Olympic competition.) For his efforts, he finds support from his girlfriend, Mérémie Dufort, who is also a synchronized swimmer. “She knows it is a passion and she encourages me,” he says. “For her, what I’m doing is completely normal.”

A TV-sawy turtle

Move over Barney—Franklin the turtle now rules the airwaves. The Franklin cartoon series, based on the childrens books written by Toronto’s Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark of Port Perry, Ont., was rated the most popular kids’ TV show in the United States last month. “I could not have imagined this,” says Bourgeois, who created the character back in 1986. “I wrote one story and was thrilled that anybody wanted to publish it.”

Franklin, a timid terrapin, first aired on

Canadian TV Ín 1997. But the program, produced by Nelvana, Canada’s largest independent animation company, only appeared on U.S. television last October. Since then, merchandise featuring the tiny green turtle has become all the rage for toddlers and young schoolchildren. Nelvana has granted 20 new merchandising licenses in North America since the beginning of the year, bringing the total to 48. And more than 24 million books have been sold worldwide since Franklin was created. Slow and steady does win the race.