Paralympics

Benoit Huot retires after iconic Paralympic swim career

​Canadian swimmer Benoit Huot, a 20-time Paralympic medallist and member of the Order of Canada, retired from the sport Tuesday at age 35. "I'm proud to have been able to fulfill all my competitive dreams," says the nine-time Paralympic champion.

35-year-old Canadian won 20 Paralympic medals, 32 at world championships

Canadian swimmer and 20-time Paralympic medallist Benoit Huot retired from the sport on Tuesday. (Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images/File)

​Canadian swimmer Benoit Huot, a 20-time Paralympic medallist and member of the Order of Canada, retired from the sport on Tuesday at age 35.

His last of five Paralympic competitions came in 2016 at Rio, where the Longueuil, Que., native finished third in the men's 400-metre freestyle S10 for his 20th medal.

WATCH | Huot win bronze in Rio for his 20th Paralympic medal:

Huot finished third in the 400m freestyle S10 . 9:48

"It's time to hang up my Speedo," the 20-year national team member said in a statement released by Swimming Canada. "It was the greatest of honours to represent our country and I'm proud to have been able to fulfill all my competitive dreams.

"Sport is the most amazing school of life and I had the privilege of being its student for the past 25 years."

The nine-time Paralympic champion, who also won 32 medals across seven world championships, was born with a malformation in his right leg commonly known as club foot.

At his first Paralympic Games at Sydney in 2000, Huot won three gold medals and three silver. He followed that performance with his most productive Games four years later, capturing five gold and a silver in Athens.

The reality is that Benoit has transcended sport and will leave a legacy of sportsmanship, courage and dignity.— Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi on retiring Paralympian Benoit Huot

Huot was named Canada's flag-bearer at the closing ceremony at the 2012 Paralympics in London after a three-medal effort, including a world record in the 200 individual medley SM10.

"Benoit is one of the most celebrated Paralympians worldwide but he is so much more than all the accolades and achievements I could list," said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. "The reality is that Benoit has transcended sport and will leave a legacy of sportsmanship, courage and dignity."

Benoit Huot: By the numbers

  • First Team Canada appearance: 1998 (age 14)
  • Number of world championship medals as a 14-year-old: 6
  • Number of Commonwealth Games medals: 4
  • Number of Parapan Am Games medals: 12
  • Number of years awarded Swimming Canada's male para-swimmer of the year: 12
  • Number of current major long-course records: 10 (Six Canadian, two Americas, one world championship, one Parapan Am Games)

El-Awadi added Huot "was and will always be an ambassador for swimming, the entire Paralympic movement, and an inspiration to anyone who feels they can't do or achieve something."

WATCH | Huot on what remains within the Paralympic movement:

After 20 years representing Canada all over the world, swimmer Benoit Huot is retiring. He's seen the Paralympic movement go through many changes since the early nineties , and Huot tells CBC Sports' Jacqueline Doorey what more needs to be done. 3:39

In 2015, he competed at the IPC world championships and Glasgow and later that summer at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, earning a gold and four silver.

Numerous accolades

On Dec. 30, 2016, Huot was named a member of the Order of Canada, which celebrates Canadians who have excelled in their field or who have demonstrated exceptional dedication or service to their country.

Huot was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec last year for "outstanding achievement" in his field and is a multiple recipient of the "Person with a Disability of the Year" King Clancy Award.

WATCH | Huot on changing the weight of gold:

At the beginning of his career, Benoit Huot had to deal with a lot of double standards as a Paralympian. Things have changed as times gone on, but there’s still one dream he hopes to see fulfilled. 2:48
Now a swimming commentator for ICI Radio-Canada Télé, Huot now intends to continue his mission with youth with disabilities through various initiatives, including the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Foundation and Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Mike Thompson, Huot's coach at the High Performance Centre in Quebec, became attracted to the Paralympic movement after learning of the swimmer's vision to have a Paralympic medal mean as much as an Olympic medal.

"It inspires me to stay here until that vision becomes a reality," Thompson told Swimming Canada. "I know that Ben will be successful, no matter what he does. I've seen him tackle a lot of things and I've seen him identify and capitalize on the best opportunities under stress and through adversity. It's just in his nature; he's a winner."

Aurélie Rivard on Huet: 'He inspired me to work hard'

Aurélie  Rivard, who was named para-swimmer of the year by Swimming Canada in 2015 along with Huot, told Swimming Canada that he has been an important person in her career.

"I owe him a lot," she said of Huot, who began swimming as an eight-year-old. "He inspired me to work hard and push beyond myself every day to achieve my goals.

"It makes me sad I will no longer share a lane with him."

Paralympian Benoit Huot, left, who was invested as member of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston in 2017, has retired from competitive swimming at age 35. He won 20 Paralympic medals, including nine gold, and 32 medals across six world championships. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press/File)

Added 1992 Canadian Olympic swim champion Mark Tewksbury: "Benoit Huot is like the Michael Phelps of Canadian Paralympic swimming. Iconic and legendary. But beyond his athletic achievements, it is his leadership and example that he will be most remembered for.

"Benoit was an excellent swimmer but was an even better teammate. He set the tone for the next generation of excellence in Canadian Paralympic swimming."

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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