Making a Splash: Meet the Trojan Engineer Chasing Her Olympic Dreams

| May 30, 2024

Aëla Janvier has her sights on Paris 2024, following an exciting swim career that has taken her from Montreal to USC and now the French Olympic squad.

Aëla Janvier USC Swim Team

Aëla Janvier during her time swimming for the USC Swim Team. Image/USC Athletics

The first 50 meters are a blur. The water drowns out the roar of the crowd. There’s no pain yet. You’re full of energy. As you hit the 100-meter mark, you keep telling yourself that you’re doing everything in your power. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be pain. You can’t think about it. You just have to trust your training and all the work you’ve put in. In the last 50, you close your eyes and take it all in. Your muscles burn. You open your eyes and forge ahead. You see the flags above you, and it’s over.   

That’s the inner monologue of Aëla Janvier (B.S. ISE ‘23) as she powers through the 200-meter backstroke — her specialty. The USC graduate is currently in Amiens, France, training over 30 hours a week, both in and out of the pool, for the French Olympic team qualifiers in June.  

Her training schedule is intense. She arrives at one of Amiens’ training centers at 7:00 AM, launching into 30 minutes of pre-swim exercises to activate her muscles before getting in the pool for two hours. After the morning swim, she’ll stretch before taking a break, and then she’ll return to the pool at 3:30 PM for more activations, then weights or more swimming, depending on the day. In addition to this intense training schedule, Janvier gets massages every Wednesday, regularly sees a physical therapist, works with a sports nutritionist biweekly, and talks to a sports psychologist.   

Despite her packed training regime, Janvier has been having much more fun with the sport recently. She always tries to take a moment to reflect on what made her fall in love with swimming.   

“I need to remind myself of why I do it when there’s a lot of stress. I can get super emotional and in my head about it, so I try to remind myself of the little girl who just loved to swim on Wednesday nights,” Janvier said.  

In the warm summer heat of Montreal, Janvier spent every Wednesday night of her childhood competing in swimming duals with other local pools. Pool culture is huge in Janvier’s hometown, and she explored swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming during her summers. It was mostly for fun, but her natural competitive nature eventually pushed her towards the adrenaline rush of swim meets.  

Janvier, an athlete at heart, also skied and danced throughout her childhood. It wasn’t until age 15 that Janvier’s parents let her focus solely on swimming. “They knew it was a huge part of me and that swimming was always the priority, but I needed to be able to do other things at the same time, and I’m so grateful that they pushed for that because dance especially helped me so much with injury prevention and mobility,” she said. 

After high school, Janvier planned to continue her swim career at McGill University in Montreal. She had never considered attending college in the United States until some of her teammates went and loved it. So, she emailed the coaches at USC. Janvier didn’t receive a reply the first time but refused to give up. “When they responded to my second email, I still remember exactly where I was when I got it,” Janvier said. “I ran upstairs to tell my mom. I was so over the moon. I went on an official visit and committed a month later.”   

In Montreal, her training and schooling schedule was intense, at one point swimming 24 hours a week while doing full school days. Transitioning to USC was quite easy, and she found her footing relatively quickly. While initially planning on a pre-med track, Janvier graduated with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering.  

“I loved my major. It was everything that I could have wanted from a college major,” Janvier said. “The people I met in ISE are just incredible. A lot of them came to my senior meet last year. They were the best. They helped me separate swimming from the real world,” she said. 

When it came time for Janvier to face her ISE exams, she used her extensive training for the 200 backstroke as a reference point.  

“I always reminded myself, ‘It could be so much worse,’” Janvier joked. The breathing and stress management techniques she relied on before a high-pressure meet turned out to be invaluable tools to combat the stresses of exams.  

Junior year at USC was challenging for Janvier. School was getting more intense, and she was putting immense pressure on herself both in the pool and academically. Her parents advised her to take a break from LA, suggesting she spend the summer in either Montreal or France. Choosing France, Janvier spent her summer training in Amiens. It was during this time that she was finally in a space to get out of her own head and grow and improve.   

“Having a home Olympics was always the dream,” Janvier said. As a French Canadian with dual citizenship through her grandmother, she always knew she wanted to represent France but was unsure how sports citizenship and nationality would work. She represented Canada at the World Championships in Hangzhou, China in 2018. Once you swim internationally for a country, that determines your sports citizenship, even if you have two nationalities. After the world championship,  Janvier realized she wanted to represent France. However, finding out that she would have to live in France for a year to change sports nationalities was an unexpected logistical challenge. She worried that her dream of representing France may not come to fruition.  

But at the beginning of her senior fall semester, Janvier decided to bite the bullet and relocate to France, where she could train while taking all her classes asynchronously. This allowed her to spend one year in the country, fulfilling the requirement to change sports nationality and potentially compete for France at the Olympics.  

Aëla Janvier swimming backstroke for USC. Image/USC Athletics

Aëla Janvier swimming backstroke for USC. Image/USC Athletics

The road ahead to the Olympic qualifiers 

There are two important goals for Janvier at the upcoming qualifying meet in June. If she meets the ‘A standard’ time of 2:10.39, also known as the Olympic Qualification Time, she’s guaranteed selection to the French Olympic team. If she makes the Olympic Consideration Time or the ‘B Standard’ of 2:11.04, she may still be selected if not enough swimmers meet the A standard to fill the Olympic roster spots. 

“Training for something as big as the Olympics, I’m very grateful, and I’ve fallen in love with swimming again. It’s not that I didn’t love swimming, but I’m a lot more present at every practice and a lot more mindful of this opportunity,” Janvier said.  

“You have to go in with so much confidence and like you have to, one, believe in yourself, but also believe that you’ve done the work. And that the work will speak for itself,” she said. 

After her shot at Paris 2024, Janvier plans on attending graduate school to study Management and Digital Information Systems. When she’s not busy training, she’s busy sending in applications. 

Whether or not Janvier continues her swim career after the June meet, she’ll never lose sight of what made her love the sport so much.  

There are two main things — the calm of the water. You’ll hear a lot of swimmers say this, but when you’re in the water, there’s literally nothing else. It’s really calming when there’s so much going on in your life and you can just focus on yourself. Sometimes it’s awful watching a black line for two hours, but there’s a serenity that comes with it,” Janvier said. “And then you spend so much time with the people in the group that you swim with. I spent more time with my teammates when I was back in Montreal than I did with my family. So there’s that aspect of bonding and finding your forever friends and teammates.” 

Published on May 30th, 2024

Last updated on May 30th, 2024

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