The national Para-swimming team has lost several key members as Nathan Stein, Devin Gotell, Isaac Bouckley, Zack McAllister and Sarah Mailhot have announced their retirement from competitive swimming.
Maple Ridge BC’s, Nathan Stein hangs up his speedo and grabs a stopwatch as he announced his retirement and moves in to a coaching role youth in the sport of swimming.
“I’m still a swimmer at heart and always will be,” expressed Stein. “I’m ready to give back to the sport in a different way.”
The Maple Ridge, BC native has had a difficult path to success. At 12 years old, Stein was diagnosed with Osteochondritis Dissecans, a condition that has required 11 surgeries on his leg. These circumstances would have stopped most from ever considering a future in competitive sports but Stein persevered and now retires from the sport as a two-time Paralympian.
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Stein joined elite Canadian swimming company by winning a silver medal in the 50-metre freestyle while breaking a national record, a moment he will never forget.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to win a medal for my country in front of thousands of people, including my mom, dad and grandmother. I’m at a loss for words.”
The Paralympic silver medal helped substantiate the strenuous road he had faced to attain this achievement.
Stein has already refocused his efforts toward coaching, joining the Surrey Knights staff alongside Head Coach Reg Shaw where he hopes to guide young swimmers to become future medalists.
“I always got through to the kids so this is the way I thought I should be going,” concluded Stein.
Surrey Knights Swim Club – Coach Reg Shaw
Simon Fraser Aquatics
Haney Seahorse Swim Club
Antigonish’s Devon Gotell has made the choice to step out of the sport he loves and move to his next passion in life.
“I am retiring from a long, adventurous career of sport. As we all know, these types of things don’t last forever,” said Gotell who was born with a genetic condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism that affects his vision.
Gotell made his Paralympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Games. At the London 2012 Games, he competed in four events and finished 7th in the men’s 400-m freestyle.
His international development continued throughout the next four years. At the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, Gotell made a waves by bringing home a silver in the 200-m IM and 100-m backstroke and a gold in the 400-m freestyle, a memorable career highlight.
“It doesn’t get much better than standing upon a podium in front of a sea of Canadians who were cheering for you,” he said.
Gotell then made his second Paralympic appearance last summer in Rio de Janeiro where he made one final in the 100-m backstroke, finishing eighth.
Gotell has now decided to call it a career after more than a decade of representing Canada on the international stage. He is now ready for the next chapter of his life.
“I plan to pursue my schooling full-time at Ryerson University. I aspire to be a part of the accessibility movement in Ontario,” said the 27 year old. “I will also be working with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind since it has a big influence on my daily life as a person with a visual impairment.”
London Aquatic Club – Andrew Craven
UDM – Pierre Lamy
Natation Gatineau– Michel Berube
Golden Horseshoe Aquatic Club
Port Hawkesbury Antigonish Aquanauts
The Port-Hope, Ont., native has chosen to leave the sport a year after his second Paralympic appearance.
At the London 2012 Paralympics, Bouckley competed in six events and reached the final in the men’s 400-m freestyle and the 200-m individual medley, where he finished eighth in the 400-m free.
At his second Paralympic experience in Rio 2016, Bouckley swam in five events and made the final in the 200-m individual medley where he finished eighth, his best finish at the competition.
“I have spent a quarter of my life with the national team and doing so has been the greatest privilege I could have hoped for,” he said. “I have had so many great moments in my career that I will never forget, and I am just so happy and proud to have been able to represent my country.”
Bouckley leaves the sport with great appreciation for all that it has taught him and looks forward to the future.
“I feel that I have accomplished more than I could have hoped for in my sport and look forward to facing future challenges,” Bouckley said. “I will apply all the virtues I have learned in my years training with the greatest people, in the greatest country in the world.”
Académie de natation de Montreal – Benoit Lebrun
Para-swimming Intensive Training Program Quebec – Mike Thompson
UDM – Pierre Lamy
Northumberland Aquatic Club
McAllister, who was born and raised in Lethbridge, Alta., has a genetic condition that results in bone spurs and tumours, that restrict growth and the range of motion in his arms and legs.
McAllister made his first Paralympic Team in 2012 where he represented Canada at the London Games and competed in four events. His best finishes were sixth in the 400-m free and 10th in the 100 free, setting Canadian and Americas records in both races.
He would continue setting records as he lowered the Canadian and Americas records in the 50-m and 100-m freestyle at the 2013 IPC World Championships in Montreal. At the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, he won gold in the 50-m freestyle, breaking his own Canadian record and setting an Americas record. He also added a silver in the 400-m freestyle and the 100-m freestyle and was part of the 4×100-m 34 pt. freestyle relay team that won silver and set a Canadian record.
He qualified for the Rio 2016 Games, his second Paralympic experience. McAllister made the finals in both the 100-m and 50-m freestyle and he finished seventh and eighth respectively, while also contributing to a Canadian record in the 34pts 4×100-m medley relay.
In 2012 McAllister was a recipient the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, one of Canada’s highest honours that recognized significant achievements by Canadians as a celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
Lethbridge Swimming/University of Lethbridge – Peter Schori
Lethbridge Swimming – Brad Mori
A career in competitive sport will take you through many ups and downs, as Mailhot is quick to point out, but when you take a moment to reflect on your career, the lows only help to accentuate the highs.
“From my first national team in 2009 to my last in 2015, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite memory,” she said. “But if I had to, it would be the Parapan-American games in Toronto. At that point in my career, I’d had a couple rough years, and it was truly my moment to shine.”
Though she didn’t emerge from the Parapan-American Games with a medal, she has no regrets about her performance knowing she left it all in the pool.
“I had learned for my past mistakes, and I put everything I knew into making sure I had the best time of my life, and I definitely did,” said Mailhot.
The decision to retire was not easy as it was a dream of hers to wear the maple leaf on her cap since she was young, but it was important for her to retire while she still enjoyed the sport.
“Swimming made my life exciting and extraordinary, and I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today if it wasn’t for all those years in the pool,” she said. “I’ll always feel a little pinch in my heart whenever I talk about swimming.”
The Quebec City native is eager to take on new challenges in life using her skills learned in swimming to help her along the way.
Club de Natation Region de Quebec – Marc-Andre Pelletier
Club de Natation CSQ – Valérie Cyr
“All five athletes have been significant contributors to the sport and Team Canada.” says James Hood the Senior Manger Para-swimming Programs. Each brought their own unique personalities to the team. Swimming Canada wishes them all the best in their next choices and each will always be a part of the Paralympic movement and Swimming Canada.