RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Benoit Huot sat on his balcony in the Athlete’s Village every morning these past 10 days and took in the sights and sounds of Rio, trying to enjoy every moment in what may be his last Games.
He will enjoy it that much more now that he has his 20th career Paralympic medal around his neck.
In what Huot considered to be the toughest race of his career, the 32-year-old stormed back at the halfway point of the men’s S10 400-metre freestyle and powered his way to a bronze medal finish.
“At the midpoint it was quite intense and I knew I had another 200m and I had to really give it my all and everything was aligned: my energy, my technique, my power – everything was good,” the native of Saint-Hubert, Que. said.
“I’m very happy and I would try to write a Hollywood script to end on that note so it’s like a dream come true and I can be at peace with winning (my 20th Paralympic medal).”
Huot entered the final race with confidence after finishing second with a time of 4:10.58 in his qualifying heat, but surprised even himself on Thursday night.
His time of 4:04.63 was nearly two seconds faster than his previous personal best of 4:06.58 set in the 2012 Paralympics when he won silver.
“I knew I had another gear, but I never thought I could go 4:04. Maybe 4:07 or 4:06 if everything went well, but I don’t know,” Huot said. “I had a lot of fun, I was trying to enjoy it, embrace every second of it and that’s exactly what I did.”
With five Paralympic competitions now complete for the para-swimming legend, he’s tried to take in every moment. Although he won’t admit whether or not he is the leaving the pool for good, Huot appreciates everything about the Paralympics now more than ever.
“The Brazilians did an amazing job … and everyday I was telling myself how lucky you are to be here and to live this after so many years,” Huot said. “I feel like a little kid again and the magic is back.”