NEW LONDON, N.H. — A lifelong love of swimming has given a Kearsarge High School junior an opportunity few have had: to compete worldwide for the last six years.
On Sunday, July 5, Vera Rivard, a 16-year-old Springfield resident, was the first solo swimmer of the season to take part in the 20 Bridges Swim in New York City. Swimmers are participating in solo swims rather than group swims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The 28.5 mile route circles Manhattan island via the East River, Harlem River and Hudson River. Swimmers apply and are chosen based on a variety of factors, including previous marathon swim experience, age, gender and nationality.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to swim in these special waters,” she said. “I was extremely honored to be chosen to swim. The opportunity for swimmers is greatly reduced this year due to the pandemic. I have dreamed of this swim for as long as I can remember. I feel so lucky to be the first swimmer of the year and hope I can inspire others and show them that if you work hard, you can achieve any goal.”
Rivard finished the swim in 7 hours and 53 minutes. Though this was the first time Rivard had competed in this particular race, it wasn’t her first marathon swim; she’s been competing in open water swim competitions since she was 10 years old.
She did the 25 mile Search of Memphre at Lake Memphremagog in Newport, Vermont in 2018, a double crossing of Lake Willoughby in Westmore, Vermont in 2018 and 2019, and double crossing of Lake Massawippi in Ayers Cliff, Quebec in 2018 and 2019. Last summer, she was invited to compete in the Cork Distance Week competition in Cork, Ireland, where she swam over 50 miles. In the winter, Rivard also participated in the Winter Ice Swimming Festival at Lake Memphremagog. She competed in the Festival in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.
She’s also competed in the Kingdom Games’ Swim Week three times, which consists of swimming in eight lakes in nine days, totaling to about 60 miles of swimming.
When not competing in open water swims, Rivard trains at the Upper Valley Aquatics Center in White River Junction, Vermont.
“My love for swimming has been part of me since I was born and I loved racing since joining the UVAC when I was five years old,” Rivard said. “I love swimming; I feel like me when I am in the water.”
Rivard’s success has been an inspiration for many in the Kearsarge High School community as well.
“Vera’s been able to accomplish some amazing achievements outside of school,” said Principal Charles Langille. “She’s set out and met all the challenges she’s faced, and shows each of us what you can achieve with hard work and determination each time she competes. We couldn’t be prouder of her.”
Rivard said she’s unsure if she’ll compete in the Bridges Swim again, but has other big swims and challenges planned for the near future. She hopes to swim the English Channel in late August, which is a 21-30 mile crossing from England to France.
“I might not do this beautiful swim again because it is a great honor to be chosen even once, but I have other big swims and challenges planned,” Rivard said. “I am still training and hoping to swim the English Channel this August. I am not sure if that is feasible due to travel restrictions but we are holding out hope. I am sure I will never give up my love of swimming and adventure, and encourage others to follow their dreams.”