Canadian wheelchair fencer ends Paralympic career with family in mind

Canada’s most successful wheelchair fencer Pierre Mainville arrived at Carioca 3 Arena with butterflies in his chest on Tuesday, well aware the men’s individual sabre event in his third Paralympic Games would be his last.

Pierre Mainville ready to move

Canadian wheelchair fencer Pierre Mainville, pictured with his son, said his decision to retire was guided by wanting to spend more time with his family. (Photo courtesy Canadian Paralympic Committee)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Pierre Mainville didn't get much sleep Monday night.

Canada's most successful wheelchair fencer arrived at Carioca 3 Arena with butterflies in his chest on Tuesday, well aware the men's individual sabre event in his third Paralympic Games would be his last.

"I know it's my last one and you always want to do the best things you do last," Mainville said after losing his first three bouts. "Maybe I was too nervous, because the evening before I didn't sleep very well."

After a lengthy career that took off in 2006, the 43-year-old from Saint-Jerome, Que., is ready to move on, and his decision to retire was guided by who is waiting for him at home.

"It's a lot of time to spend on fencing, and sometimes you are not with the family with all the trips and training camps," Mainville said. "So of course you lose some of that time and that's why I want to wait and spend more time with my family."

Mainville and his wife have a  five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. He acknowledges the constant travelling is taking its toll. What made things easier was his commitment to one fighting style. In his previous Paralympics, he competed in the sabre and epee events – twice the practice, and twice as many matches. Leading up to the Rio Games, he spent his time refining his sabre technique.

"All the physical preparation and the mentality, all the tactic was only for sabre," Mainville said. "I'm supposed to be focused to do it so if there's a problem, it's always in the head, you always need to relax and do your action."

His most recent victory came at the 2016 American Championships in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where he won gold. It was a great moment for him and he remembered the Brazilian fans fondly, but had a hard time comparing it to the world's biggest stage.

Mainville's career highlights include appearances at the Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, and World Cup podium finishes in Italy, Germany, and Canada.

"Now it's the Paralympics so it's bigger," he said. "The night before you don't sleep very well. It's different but I feel very good here, they are nice people."

After bowing out of the competition in the quarter-finals, Mainville's wheelchair fencing career came to an end. One of the things he will miss most is the relationships he has built.

"It's a fraternity between all the fencers, which I'll miss," Mainville said after his final Paralympic bout. "The friendship with my coach that we have, it's like my father, that guy has showed me a lot about life about being myself, knowing myself more, and that's fencing. Fencing is about knowing yourself."

With files from the Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium

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