RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – With 23-year-old Isaac Bouckley lined up to his right in lane one, 32-year-old Benoit Huot could see some of himself.
Flashback to 2000 and Huot was in a similar situation – the young kid lined up with one of Canada’s best para-swimmers.
“I remember a swimmer, Phillipe Gagnon, and it was great to have him there because he was so much faster than I was and my goal was always to catch him and beat him,” Huot said. “And then in 2002 at the Commonwealth Games I didn’t know it was his last competition and we were in the freestyle together and I beat him for the first time and that night in Manchester, England he came and told me that that was his last race.
“For once in my life, I had gotten to beat (Gagnon), the guy I was looking up to for my entire youth and it was in his last race.”
Today, 14 years later a similar transition is occurring with Canada’s next generation of para-swimmers. Along with Bouckley, who beat his personal best by three seconds to make it to the men’s SM10 200-metre individual medley final with Huot, newcomers Aurelie Rivard and Abi Tripp are insuring the country’s success in the pool.
Rivard claimed Canada’s first gold medal of the Rio Paralympics in the women’s S10 50-metre freestyle in world-record time and 15-year-old Tripp shattered a Canadian record in the women’s SM8 200-metre individual medley at the Canadian Para-swimming trials in April.
Huot’s proud to see these results and, although the native of Longueuil, QC. recognizes the benefits of his veteran presence, he is not out to get in anyone’s face or be too vocal.
“I like to lead by action, with the way I train and the way I approach things and I try to be as professional as I can, but these kids are smart, too,” the 19-time Paralympic medallist said. “They know the tricks and they know how to do things and it’s good having them around because the years I was swimming (against Gagnon) pushed me to try and become as good as he was and he helped me become the swimmer I am today so somehow I hope I’m doing the same with (Bouckley) and the other athletes that we’re training with.”
If anything, they’re having as positive effect on him as he is on them.
“Having that fresh energy helps a 32-year-old to try and stay young,” Huot said.