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The Last Word: Alexandre Despatie

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Originally published in Volume 21.7 of CANADIENS Magazine in June 2007.

Montreal native Alexandre Despatie was a diver almost from birth, first practicing in his backyard pool before joining the famed CAMO (Club Aquatique de Montréal) diving team at the age of five. Now just 22, he has already assembled an impressive resumé, having won a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, two gold medals at the 2005 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Montreal, and three more gold medals at 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. We caught up with the athlete, actor, and McDonald’s spokesperson as he prepared for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

You’re a Canadiens fan. Are you able to follow the team in spite of your schedule?
Alexandre Despatie: I was actually able to follow the team a little more closely this year than I have in the past. I have to admit that I prefer being at the Bell Centre to watching the games on TV, though. Nothing compares to being there in person.

Did you have any team gear as a kid?
AD: When I was 13 years old I had the opportunity to take part in a ceremonial faceoff at the Bell Centre after having won a gold medal in platform diving at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. The team gave me a personalized jersey for the occasion and I was thrilled to have it. It’s pretty special to me – I still have it at home.

You’re making your big screen debut in the Quebec teen comedy A vos marques… Party ! [“On Your Marks… Party!”] Did you enjoy the experience?
AD: I loved it. I was definitely bitten by the acting bug. The whole experience helped give me a better picture of what I’d like to do after my diving career is over. I missed the premiere because I was at the World Championships in Melbourne, but I heard it went well.

Were you nervous when they were filming the diving sequences?
AD: To be honest, those were the scenes where I was most comfortable. They were the only the ones where I knew what I was doing, as opposed to the others, where the acting part was a bit of an unknown.

Who’s scarier: Diving judges or film critics?
AD: They’re two totally different groups, since diving judges base their evaluations on established criteria and I know what they expect from me. I really don’t know what to expect from film critics since I only had a small role in the movie. I think the role was about as tailored for me as it could get, so everything related to it went smoothly.

McDonald’s has been a big supporter of yours since your gold medal in Malaysia. Are you as big a supporter of McDonald’s?
AD: Eating at McDonald’s is a little gift to myself. Being an athlete, though, I obviously need to have a balanced diet and I need to be careful about my fast food consumption. After a period of intense training and competition, I’m able to treat myself to a Big Mac on a clear conscience and I take great satisfaction in that. I absolutely savor every bite and try to make the enjoyment last as long as possible. [laughs] It was after I related a similar anecdote to a reporter following that win in Kuala Lumpur, actually, that the association with McDonald’s began.

Should the use of Speedos be reserved for athletes?
AD: I’ve worn Speedos since I was a little kid and I’m very comfortable in them. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m more comfortable in them than I am in surfer shorts or swimming trunks. I would say that athletes have a definite advantage over the population at large when it comes to the appropriate use of a Speedo. I’ll leave it at that. [laughs]

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