MONTREAL – There were no Paralympic Games or world championships but 2014 is a year Canadian Para-swimming star Benoit Huot will never forget.
Highlights included receiving his university degree, making his debut as a national broadcaster and purchasing a new house. The black mark was having many of his medals stolen from that home before he had even moved in.
‘’When I look back at 2014 it was year full of personal challenges,’’ said Huot.
Now 30, Huot is in deep thought about his post-competitive career. He definitely wants to remain involved in the Paralympic movement and this winter he seemed a natural for television.
The 19-time Paralympic Games medallist was initiated to broadcasting as a host of the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s consortium coverage of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi this past March.
‘’I know I’m in my final years as a high-performance athlete,’’ said Huot. ‘’I felt privileged to get the support to go behind the scenes at an event like the Paralympic Winter Games and see it from another angle. These will be valuable tools for my post career. Sochi was a great adventure for me and I really loved it.’’
Long work days in Russia weren’t the ideal preparation for the all-important Can Am Championships, a qualifying meet for the Para Pan Pacific Championships that loomed on the heels of the Sochi Games.
‘’I knew I was getting into a tight situation when I went into Sochi but I managed it well,’’ he said. ‘’I was able to swim and train at least an hour a day while in Russia. When I arrived in Miami for the Can Ams my head was in the right place and I was able to swim pretty well.’’
In late July, Huot’s father discovered that there had been a break-in at his recently purchased home and several items had gone missing, including at least one of his 19 Paralympic medals, three from the Commonwealth Games and three from the Parapan American Games.
“The other stuff, they’re replaceable, but not the medals,” Huot said. “It has no (monetary) value attached to it pretty much. It’s all sentimental and emotional and that’s it.”
Montreal police recently told Huot they have closed the case. Huot plans to request replacement medals from the appropriate parties although, he admits, they can never replace the originals.
Despite this unfortunate incident and a huge amount of time invested in renovating his new home, Huot regrouped to deliver a fine performance at the Para Pan Pacs which were held in Pasadena, Calif. He won the gold medal in the 200-m individual medley and silver in the 100-m backstroke.
It was one of the highlights for a young 32-member Canadian team that finished with 10 gold, 27 silver and 30 bronze. Aurélie Rivard was the star of the competition for Canada with five individual medals while Nathan Stein broke two of Huot’s records in a double medal performance. Stein and Rivard were named the Team Aquatic Supplies Male and Female Para-Swimmers of the Year.
‘’We have a young and talented team,’’ said Huot. ‘’Swimmers like Nathan and Aurélie are going to be big stars in the sport and I look forward to training with them over the next two seasons.’’
Huot also received his university diploma in communications and administration at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Combining high-performance sport and his studies, it took him eight and half years to get that valuable certificate and it was very important moment for him.
‘’After the London Games I had 11 courses to complete,’’ he said. ‘’So I invested a lot of time in my studies. I never took courses in the years of major Games because it is hard to study when we are so often out of the country.
‘’Now I can focus entirely on swimming for the next two years.’’