When Nicholas Bennett found out he was going to Lima for the 2019 Parapan American Games, he had to fight back tears. He then called his dad and his sister to tell them the good news.
Bennett, 15, is off to a fast start in Lima, picking up two gold medals through the first two days of competition. His first gold came on Sunday in the SB14 100-m breaststroke as he touched the wall in 1 minute 10.53 seconds, a Canadian record. He followed it up with a second gold in the S14 200-m freestyle in 1:59.10 on Monday night.
The British Columbia native is enjoying his experience at the Games, and he believes this could help him get to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
“I’m trying to make the Tokyo team,” said Bennett. “If I don’t, I’ll keep training until I do.”
Much of Bennett’s early training came under coach Byron Trajan’s guidance in Qualicum Beach, B.C. More recently, his sister Hayley, a former competitive swimmer, has helped him train. Later this year, Bennett will have the opportunity to train with coach Mike Thompson at Swimming Canada’s CHP-Québec in Montreal.
“I thought it was a dream at first, I started pinching myself,” said the 15-year-old about the opportunity to train with Thompson. “He’s amazing, I love how he coaches.”
For now, Bennett and the team’s focus remains on the Parapan Am Games, where the swimmers have secured six medals in two days.
Angela Marina claimed the second gold of the Games in the women’s S14 200-m backstroke in record fashion. Her time of 2:15.16 is a new Canadian record, eclipsing the mark she set in 2018.
Krystal Shaw of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had a strong race in the women’s S7 100-m freestyle, earning the silver medal in 1:23.90, topping her best time. The 25-year-old is competing in her first major event since 2009 when she swam at the IPC World Championships in Brazil.
After narrowly missing the podium in the S10 100-m freestyle on Sunday, Arianna Hunsicker took home the bronze in the SM10 200-m individual medley with a personal best time of 2:48.51 on Monday.
“That was a good race. I’m happy I got a best time and dropped three seconds,” said Hunsicker. “I wasn’t really aiming for a medal too much. I just wanted to do my best.”
Additionally, Tyson MacDonald had a chance to stand on a podium, proudly showing off his bronze medal following a strong showing in the S14 200 free.
Wayne Lomas, Associate Director of High Performance and Para Swimming National Coach at Swimming Canada is encouraged by the results but he maintains his stance that the athletes, most of which are teenagers, must remain focused on the process.
“We cannot control the people or circumstances around us, but we can focus on ourselves, our processes, our professionalism, and our preparation,” said Lomas. “Medals are a reward for application to process.”
Para swimming action continues tomorrow through Saturday at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. All five Canadian medalists will be back in the pool on Tuesday.
Preliminary races begin at 9 a.m. local time / 10 a.m. ET followed by the finals that get underway at 5 p.m. local time / 6 p.m. ET.
Full results: https://www.lima2019.pe/en/results