Denis Vachon has always had it inside him.
Even after a two-and-a-half year retirement from the gymnastic sports of double mini trampoline and tumbling, it was there. Even after battling numerous injuries the last two years during his comeback, it was still there.
And he’s going to get it out. Vachon has poured his heart and soul into his comeback. He is a former seven-time national tumbling champion, three-time national double-mini trampoline champion, two-time World Team champion in double-mini trampoline, and a world champion silver medallist in double-mini trampoline.
There are no easy days for him when it comes to training and competing. He knows what it takes to climb to the top as an elite athlete. Vachon wants to be the best in the world and he will do anything in his power to reach his goal.
“I haven’t yet had that satisfying performance where I finish my last pass and say ‘that was the best meet I could have ever had.’ I feel like I have that great moment left in me,” the 28-year-old said.
“I want to win World Games as well as World Championships. I have been second at both in the past and I am ready to be at the top of the podium this time a round.
“My life revolves around the sport. What I eat, my sleep, my social life ... this is my main priority and the rest can wait. I want to say when it’s over, I couldn’t have tried any harder. It’s a full sacrifice.”
Vachon made his name nationally and internationally when he competed on the World Cup scene from 2001 to 2008. Coming out of the Sudbury Laurels club, Vachon earned his elite athlete status thanks to his tireless work ethic and sheer will.
He retired from gymnastics in June 2008 due to “mental and physical exhaustion.”
He concentrated his efforts on coaching full-time. Now living in Hamilton, he works as a trampoline and tumbling program co-ordinator with Burlington B.G. Gymnastics Club and is a tumbling advisor for Gymnastics Canada.
In August 2010, Vachon realized he wasn’t as healthy as he felt he should be. He weighed 15 pounds less than when he competed. The lean muscle, which had propelled him to seven national titles, was gone and his energy was being sapped. Vachon was not going to let himself slide any further.
He started training again, all-out. In October, Vachon was at a World Championship camp as a club coach and was asked by the national team coach to show his routines. The coach gave Vachon full support to return to the squad.
Vachon made his return in January 2011. It started well, but quickly turned sour with injuries. In May, he pulled his adductor, groin, hip flexor and lower abdominal muscles, which took him out of training till mid-August and on modified training till March of 2012.
Through 2012, Vachon hasn’t placed lower than second in any provincial, national or international events. He is back.
The comeback has ignited Vachon’s passion and drive.
“I feel it has brought me back to life,” he said. “I am more aware now then I have ever been of where I want to go in my life and what I want to accomplish.
“I personally think I had an identity crisis after I retired. I felt very lost and because of it, changed a lot of things in my life, even things that were positive. I now know that it was because I wasn’t really ready to move on.”
Vachon’s comeback isn’t just for himself. Vachon wants to be a leader for the younger generation of tumblers and trampoline athletes. He is looking to inspire himself and others with his actions.
“The two things that inspire me the most are one, the idea I’ve had moments of greatness in the past. I feel like I have this amazing talent that led me to great things and that inspires me to want to pursue it to the fullest and to it’s end.
“Two, the idea of being an inspiration inspires me. I train with younger athletes and ... I am the one they look up to. I want to be a legend in this sport that people use as their examples for decades — an athlete who wasn’t just accomplished, but was a great team leader, a fighter, a captain and a role model.”
Vachon next competes in December at the Pan American Championship in Mexico, followed by the provincial circuit from January to April 2013, the national circuit to July, and international competitions through to the World Championships in November.
“In January, life gets crazy,” he said. “Eleven months of insanity and I couldn’t be more excited.”