LONDON – On Saturday at the London Aquatics Centre, James Leroux set an Americas record in the men’s 100-metre breaststroke SB9 with a time of 1:08.56 to give Canada its 12th medal of the World Para Swim Championships.
With the second place finish, Leroux secured his place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games, but a year ago there was no guarantee he’d ever compete going forward.
“I thought it was going to go one-of-two ways,” said Mike Thompson, Leroux’s head coach and of Canada’s high performance centre. “It was either he was going to be deflated and say ‘I can’t do it’ or come back with determination and say ‘you can’t stop me.’
“James picked the ‘you can’t stop me’ attitude.”
Because of the 21-year-old’s classification, he wasn’t selected for any of the events in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. That forced the Repentigny, Que., native to take some much needed time off.
“Last year was rough,” said Leroux, post-swim in his only event in Great Britain’s capital. “But I came back stronger [this year] — didn’t hold anything back. I was focused and professional in everything I was doing.
“We don’t get a lot of time off, so after taking some time off there was more fun [in swimming].”
The intensity of a world championship event was added to Leroux’s enjoyment of competition this week. However, Thompson wasn’t concerned with how his swimmer would perform under the bright lights of London.
“A couple people mentioned to me that he was really nervous,” said Thompson. “I wasn’t worried about it. He swims the best when he’s under pressure.”
Leroux will be facing more of that next year in Tokyo, where it will be his second Paralympic Games after a seventh place finish in Rio 2016.
“I’ll definitely be in Tokyo with a different mindset,” said the Americas record holder. “I’ll still enjoy them but now I’m one of the top swimmers of the world.
“I’m going to be focused and I’m ready for the games.”
Aurelie Rivard’s exceptional performance continued on day six as the 23-year-old earned her fourth medal at the London Aquatics Centre with a bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke S10.
Rivard had the fifth fastest qualifying time in the morning session but rebounded in the evening posting a time of 1:10.69, just under two seconds faster between races.
The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., native now has four medals including Canada’s only two gold medals, but this one was a bit unexpected.
“I never medalled in the 100m backstroke before in my life,” said Rivard. That’s such a positive I’ll take from this event.”
“I’m happy with all times knowing what I need to prepare for Tokyo.”
The World Para Swim Championships come to a close Sunday with 10 Canadians competing in seven individual events as well as the 4x100m freestyle relay to close out Team Canada’s time across the Atlantic.