EDMONTON – Benoit Huot of Montreal recently wrote his final exam at the Université du Québec à Montreal to complete his degree in marketing, communications and administration.
Over the eight and half years that it took to finish the degree, Huot also became one of most successful Canadian athletes of all time. He earned a record 19 Paralympic medals in swimming and broke numerous world records.
After the London Paralympic Games in 2012 he still had 10 courses to complete and his studies have been a priority since then. While his academic journey winds down, Huot’s competitive career in the pool is still very strong.
He’s gearing up for the Can-Am Para-swimming Championships in Miami from March 27 to 29. That meet will serve at the Canadian trials for this summer’s Para Pan Pacific Championships in Pasadena, Calif. Huot says competing until the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto and the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro is a possibility.
‘’Suddenly the Parapan Ams are only a year-and-a half away. It’s is going to be the biggest competition ever for Paralympic athletes in this country. It’s something I definitely want to be part of.’’ Huot said. “For sure if I go to Pan Ams I will want to go to Brazil. We’re almost there.”
And beyond 2016? Huot says he wants to remain in the world of Canadian sport in some capacity. That’s good news for high performance sport in this country. Huot is well-spoken in both official languages, he is a highly-skilled and popular speaker and he has sound knowledge of Canadian sport at all levels.
‘’I definitely want to stay connected to sport after my swimming career is done,’’ said Huot. ‘’Obviously my three areas of study certainly have that link. And definitely Paralympic sport is close to my heart. There is still so much work to do in the movement.’’
Plenty of opportunities have come Huot’s way, including a role as a “Paralympic ambassador” at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Huot and former national team teammate Stephanie Dixon have been working on the CBC/Radio-Canada broadcast team and attending various events at the Games.
I love it, I’m having a great time and it’s good to see the other sports,” Huot said. “You realize how well organized it is for athletes. As athletes we don’t realize it because everything is made so easy. There’s lots of walking – I’m probably walking 20 km a day, and there’s lots of non-athlete stuff that I can experience here.”
Meanwhile, he’s trying to stay on top of his training to keep sharp for Can Ams.
“At the hotel there’s a little 25-metre pool. Well maybe not exactly 25, but right around 25. It could be 26 or 24. I swim there about 45 minutes and go to the gym another 45 minutes or an hour. It’s not easy but I’ve been in the water every day since I’ve been here so it’s not too bad,” Huot said.
His main focus is to qualify for the S10 200-m individual medley, in which he won gold at the 2013 IPC World Championships. He also has his eyes on the 100-m backstroke, a bronze-medal event for him at the 2012 Paralympics.
“I just want to make that team and be ready for the summer,” Huot said.