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Athletes hard at work at Para-swimming Intensive Training Program – Quebec

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MONTREAL – Three athletes have officially joined Swimming Canada’s Para-swimming Intensive Training Program – Quebec.

Benoit Huot, the 19-time Paralympic medallist from Montreal, headlines the group working under coach Mike Thompson. Meanwhile, fellow 2012 Paralympian Isaac Bouckley of Oshawa, Ont., and national team member Jean-Michel Lavallière of Quebec City will round out the group training at Institut National du Sport du Quebec.

National Para-swimming Head Coach Craig McCord explained that Swimming Canada has typically focused on “club based delivery for the daily training environment,” while bringing athletes together for periodic camps, etc. While that successful strategy will continue, the Intensive Training Program “adds another layer of excellence, by creating a world leading environment ” McCord said.

“This will put us up there with the best countries in the world: Brazil, Great Britain, USA and many of the Eastern bloc countries. It is a very exciting time for Para-swimming in Canada.”

“This will put us up there with the best countries in the world: Brazil, Great Britain, USA and many of the Eastern bloc countries. It is a very exciting time for Para-swimming in Canada.”

— Craig McCord, National Para-swimming Head Coach

The three athletes have their sights set on the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games. The program is one of several at the INS complex in the Olympic park, which includes the renovated Olympic pool, state-of-the-art dryland training facilities and a variety of support services all under one roof.

“It’s still in its early stages but as of right now everything is looking positive,” Bouckley said. “The access to the Integrated Support Team staff here at the Intensive Training Program, as well as sports psych, nutrition, having everything in one location creates a more focused atmosphere and it’s also easier on the athletes.”

The pool is also home to the Swimming Canada Intensive Program – Montreal for swimmers in the Olympic stream, as well as other aquatic sports. And the swimmers may rub shoulders with, for example, national team speed skaters or gymnasts while doing a workout.

“It’s probably the best pool in the country, with the best athletes: diving, synchro, water polo, the gym is amazing. All the resources and services are available all here at the same place; we don’t have to go anywhere else. There’s good coaching available for us and I don’t think there’s a better place to be,” Huot said.

Lavallière pointed out that being surrounded by other high-performance athletes is a huge plus.

“There are many people doing, not exactly the same stuff, but aiming for the same goals performance-wise,” Lavallière said. “I’m not alone here (as the only high level Para-swimmer): Isaac is here, Ben is here … and even working with the able-bodied side. I had a practice with (ITP-Montreal swimmers) Barb (Jardin) and Ashley (McGregor) last week and it’s just such a  different environment. As much as I could learn from the other high performance athletes at the INS – Quebec I can learn from Barb or Ashley and the same thing for them.”

“It’s becoming a motivator and knowing you can count on those people all year long.”

PSITP – Quebec Head Coach Mike Thompson is happy with how his program is working in the early going. He’s able to tailor his training plans for the three athletes individually, and being able to collaborate with ITP – Montreal Head Coach Tom Rushton is a big bonus.

“We had a great practice last week, we identified that we wanted to focus on their start and turn biomechanical checklists Swimming Canada has, so we made them break down and analyze their turns,” Thompson said.

The session took advantage of tools such as mobile underwater video cameras, which can be viewed instantly via a large flat-screen TV on deck.

“We had some really good feedback for them video-wise, listed out their must-haves on their checklist and got some pictures of them underwater. Tom was able to work with a couple of his athletes pretty specifically and I was able to take two of his girls and do that as well,” Thompson explained.

The program is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Fédération de natation du Québec, Institut National de Sport – Quebec and Université de Montréal.

“It is great that all our partners have supported this program,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “The ability to have a world-class daily training environment in Montreal is fantastic for Para-swimming.”

Interested Para-swimmers are encouraged to contact Thompson at mthompson@swimming.ca or Swimming Canada Senior Manager, High Performance Para-swimming Programs James Hood at jhood@swimming.ca