Laurence Vincent-Lapointe leaves the sport of canoeing safe in the knowledge her hard work and years of struggle helped lay the foundations for the future of women’s canoe paddling at the highest level.

The 29-year-old Canadian announced this week she is walking away from the sport that has consumed her life for more than a decade, a 13-time world champion and an Olympic silver and bronze medalist.

The last two years of her career, where she had to deal with the emotional and physical fall-out from a positive drug test in which she was later cleared of blame, has extinguished the flame and the passion she once had.

“I won’t hide it: it’s one of the main reasons I’m certain of my retirement,” Vincent-Lapointe said.

“I remember before my suspension I said I wanted to do two Olympics. I didn’t see myself necessarily ending after 2020.

“Having lived those two years before the Games, it hurt me emotionally. I needed a lot of help from people around me and they were wonderful. But now I’m tired of what happened and I’m ready to move on to something else.”

It’s clear Vincent-Lapointe has had enough. The 2022 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships will be in Halifax, Canada, and would have provided her with an opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd, even if she knew it would be her last appearance.

But even getting to that stage was too hard.

“It’s been several months I’ve been thinking about it,” she said.

“This fall, I wanted to take my time and see how it would work with school. It was a slow and careful reflection.

“Lately, what hit me is that I don’t miss being in training camp, going on the water, doing tests. I saw them doing tests this week and I didn’t miss that. So it was pretty clear that I’d finished my run.”

The role Vincent-Lapointe played in lifting women’s canoe to a level where it slotted seamlessly into the Tokyo Olympic program cannot be understated. For years the Canadian was miles ahead of everyone else, her strength and determination far superior to anyone else who took to the water.

Her success, and her obvious enjoyment of the sport, encouraged more women to take up canoeing. There were disappointments and frustrations with the time it took to get into the Olympics, but there was no doubt, judging by the performances in Tokyo, that Vincent-Lapointe had successfully steered the canoe program to a level worthy of the world stage.

The positive drug test threw into doubt what many considered to be an obvious gold medal to Vincent-Lapointe in Tokyo. History shows American teenager Nevin Harrison will forever be known as the first women to win an individual canoe sprint gold medal at an Olympics.

Vincent-Lapointe did her best to hide her disappointment at the time. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, she has a better appreciation for what she achieved.

“A few years ago, if someone told me I was going to the Olympics and coming back with a silver and bronze medal, I would have said: ‘Just bronze? Just silver?’,” she said.

“But having lived what I lived through, having won those two medals, I see that as an accomplishment. It puts things in perspective. That also played a role. Having achieved my goals, my motivation changed.

“Since 2019, I haven’t been able to meet people because I’m too afraid of being contaminated. It’s not healthy to have this paranoia, but I have it.

“Stopping will let me not always have to look over my shoulder, being always afraid that something physical or mental will happen to me, or another contamination. It will do some good to not have this constant stress.”

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