MONTREAL – Canadian Paralympic swimming star Benoit Huot has produced a career record that will surely make him one of Canada’s most successful athletes of all-time.
His resume includes 19 Paralympic medals and 22 trips to the podium at the world championships. He was Canada’s flag bearer at the 2012 Paralympic Games closing ceremonies. He has set numerous world records and holds the international standards in the 200-metre individual medley and 200-m backstroke.
But there is one career moment that Huot has not yet experienced, something most athletes never will: A world championship in his hometown. The International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships are set for Aug. 12-18 at Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal.
‘’It would have been special to have the event anywhere in Canada but in Montreal I feel very fortunate,’’ said Huot. ‘’It’s a unique opportunity and certainly made my decision automatic to continue my career after the London Games.’’
Despite an incredibly busy schedule, Huot appears on track to star once again at the Montreal worlds. He qualified for the team in April at the Can Am Championships in Minnesota then in July broke a 16-year-old world record in the 200-m backstroke at the Summer Nationals in Pointe-Claire.
‘’The 200-m backstroke isn’t on the worlds program but still to get the record is a good indicator of my training,’’ said Huot. ‘’I didn’t take much of a break after London and I’ve been busy and having a lot of fun. Still the big priority has been the world championships.’’
As a youngster, Huot’s dream was to be the next Patrick Roy for the Montreal Canadiens but a club foot disability made skating difficult. He started swimming competitively at age 10 with Hippocampe de St-Hubert. In the beginning he competed alongside able-bodied swimmers. He remembers crying after finishing seventh at his first meet, but he eventually competed at two Quebec Games, earning silver in 1997.
He competed at his first Paralympics at age 16, collecting three gold and three silver, then made his big international breakthrough at the 2004 Games in Athens with five gold medals and a silver. He reached the podium four more times in Beijing four years later.
In London in 2012 he showed he was still at the top of his game with three more medals including a gold and world record in the 200-m IM. His post-race reaction after the 200 IM remains the iconic Canadian photo from the Games.
Out of the pool, Huot continues to be a tireless promoter of the upcoming world championships and the entire Paralympic movement. His bubbly personality and great knowledge of sport has made him a media star in his home province.
On Radio-Canada he had his own five-minute report every two weeks, which focused on the latest developments in Paralympic sport. He also replaced the regular sports anchor on VTele where he brought viewers up to date on the latest sports happenings.
“There’s no better ambassador for their sport than the athlete,” said Huot. “We have a role to promote our sport, our movement which the public is still learning about. The awareness has greatly improved over the last 15 years – that was clear with the success of the London Games – but we still have some work to do.”
It’s clear Benoit Huot is a great ambassador for the Paralympic movement.