Getting together to prepare a routine for the celebration of the Calgary Aquabelles’ 50th anniversary Water Show was so much fun, that two members of Canada’s National Team have rekindled a duet partnership. Gabriella (Gabe) Brisson, 22, Calgary, Alta. and Claudia Holzner, 22 Calgary, Alta. started competing as a synchronized duet when they were pre-teens and were national junior champions in 2011 and 2012. While preparing a compilation duet for the water show with many of their trademark moves from previous routines, the two found their natural chemistry and rhythm fell right into place, and they didn’t want to stop with just one performance.


As a result, while Canada prepares for the upcoming 2017 FINA World Championships later this year in Budapest, Hungary, two elite duet pairs will be training at the Centre of Excellence (COE) in Montreal.

They now join two other members of the National Team, Canada’s 2016 Olympic duet of Jacqueline Simoneau, 20, Montreal, Que. and Karine Thomas, 28, Gatineau, Que., as contenders for the one representative Canada will send in the duet event to the FINA World Championships.

Meng Chen, the Senior National Team Head Coach, is excited to see the depth of Canadian synchronized swimming shining through with two strong duets vying for the opportunity to represent Canada:

“We are fortunate to have two amazing pairs in Canada who will challenge each other to be stronger and to strive harder. So far, they have both been impressive in training. Our goal is to work with each duet to give them the tools they need to create and train two dynamic programs as they prepare for the 2017 Canadian Open Championships in May. We will then assess each of their awesome performances at the trials before making the selection of which pair will represent Canada at the FINA World Championships in July.”

Brisson and Holzner also competed internationally as a duet, placing 6th in 2012 at the FINA World Junior Championships. They were 1st at the 2011 UANA Pan American Championships and 4th at the Comen Cup in 2009.

Holzner described the long-standing relationship between the two. “Gabe and I have a chemistry that has been built over the years. The movements we create together naturally fit. We have grown up together since we were 8 years old. Whether it be school, carpool, after school hang outs or practice we have really been around each other the majority of our lives!”

“It is such an incredible opportunity to be together again” and she admits that it will “continue to be a learning process for us as we attempt to swim the duet for the World Championships”

Both pairs will swim to the same music used in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games duet routines. Brisson explained how their routine will show off various aspects of their swimming. “Both duets have such different strengths and styles and so it pushes Claudia and me to really highlight our strength and power. People will see bigger movements, longer movements with a lot of propulsion down the pool in our routine.” She also sees the competition in Canada as an asset for both duets. “I think it’s very healthy that both of us have that competition. I think we’re lighting a fire under each other.”

Simoneau and Thomas have been competing together since 2014. In 2015, they won duet gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto, and then went on to finish 7th at the FINA World Championships. In their Olympic debut at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil they completed three strong programs and finished in 7th place.

According to Simoneau, “our experience in Rio this summer has made us mature a lot as a pair. We can overcome any challenge thrown at us no matter the circumstances.” Although Thomas is splitting her training time between Gatineau and Montreal this year, the two still find time to train their duet routines together every weekend. They are determined to represent Canada in the duet competition. Simoneau says “It’s good to have healthy competition in Canada and to try out different pairs.  Our goal for this coming year would be to qualify as the duet for Canada for the world championships this summer in Budapest. With our many years of experience competing as a duet internationally, we know what our competitors bring to the table, and we would like to challenge it.”

The selection of Canada’s duet team for the 2017 FINA World Championships will take place during the 2017 Canadian Open Championships, May 2-7, 2017 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough.