By Jim Morris
It was an early test and Canada’s Para-swimming team passed with winning marks.
Earning top grades at the recent British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow, Scotland, showed the Canadian team’s potential and gave an infusion of confidence heading into a long, busy summer.
Aurelie Rivard, Benoit Huot and Nathan Stein all reached the podium in the meet, held at the same Tollcross International Swimming Centre that will host the IPC Swimming World Championships this July.
“We had kids swimming as fast as they did at the trials and some of them faster,” said Craig McCord, the Para-swimming national coach. “It was a real positive thing for us to go in and race well.
“It forced some of the other swimmers to stand up and say ‘the Canadians are here and they are ready to go.’ All around it was a great situation for us.”
Rivard broke her own Canadian record to win the S10 100-metre freestyle in one minute, 0.75 seconds, and just missed breaking another national record in winning the 50-m freestyle in 28.17 seconds. She might have been most pleased with her second-place finish in the 400-m free, where she swam 4:40.88.
“It was the fastest I have gone in three years,” said the 18-year-old from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. “It was so unexpected. I always have a hard time with the jet lag and everything. Here I swam faster than (in Toronto).
“It gives me a lot of confidence.”
McCord said Rivard’s results show she has gotten stronger both physically and mentally. After the Can Ams both Rivard and Huot participated in a two-day Parapan media summit in Toronto, then a long, over-night flight to Glasgow.
“It got down to the reliability of performance,” said McCord.
“By the end of the four days of racing (in Toronto), two days of early meetings, travel, and four days of racing (in Glasgow), a couple of years ago Aurelie would have crumpled. She fulfilled her obligations. That just shows the level of maturity and professionalism starting to develop.”
While most of the team returned home after the meet Rivard travelled to Portugal for a two-week training camp followed by a meet in Berlin.
“It will be a whole different atmosphere,” she said. “It’s different motivation.”
Huot won the S10 100-m backstroke in 1:02.01 and showed he can be a contender in the 400-m freestyle with a fourth-place time of 4:18.12. The four-time Paralympian said he was better prepared mentally for Glasgow than the Can Ams.
“I had a better attitude, I was trying to enjoy being in Glasgow,” he said.
“My head was in a better position overall. I am very proud of that and the results were good. It’s a good step forward.”
Huot, a Montreal resident, has been training at Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre – Ontario in Toronto with coach Ben Titley. McCord said the move has proven beneficial.
“It’s the first time since London I’ve seen him actually get in the battle and get some quality racing done,” he said. “Based on what I’ve seen he’s got a lot more focused than he was three or four months ago.”
Stein, of Maple Ridge, B.C., was third in the S10 50-m freestyle. That came after he faced some classification questions prior to the Can Ams.
“He went through the rigor of classifications in Toronto, the mental stress,” said McCord. “He really stood up and did a job in Toronto.
“It was an amazing performance again in Glasgow. He stepped it up again.”
Among other swimmers:
- Morgan Bird of Calgary posted her fasted S8 100-m butterfly since the 2013 IPC world championships in Montreal.
- Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., swam well in both the S8 100-m breaststroke and 200-m individual medley.
“For Roxy to have two solid back-to-back meets to me indicates all the stuff we are doing with her in these podium camps and working closely with her coach have really impacted her training and her attitude,” said McCord.
- Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., had a good swim in the S7 100-m breaststroke.
The Glasgow meet was like a rehearsal for the world championships. The team stayed at the same hotel they will use this summer and travelled the same route to the pool.
“It puts them at ease,” said McCord. “Some of the athletes are not used (to travel). It makes a big difference to them, having the hotel, knowing what the food is going to be, knowing what the rooms are going to be like, the drive to the pool.
“It removes basic stress from their lives. They got a sense of what the pool is like. It really puts them at ease and gives us a little bit of an edge.”
The IPC Swimming World Championships will be held July 13-19. The Toronto Parapan Am Games will be Aug. 7-15.