Benoit Huot retires after iconic Paralympic swim career
35-year-old Canadian won 20 Paralympic medals, 32 at world championships
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:
"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:
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.
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:
It's been the greatest honor to wear the maple leaf & represent our country 🇨🇦 Quel grand honneur et privilège de porter la feuille d'érable <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thankyou?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#thankyou</a> Merci Canada 🙏 <a href="https://t.co/EEGuFndiw9">pic.twitter.com/EEGuFndiw9</a>—@benhuot
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'
"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."
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."