Heading into his third World Para Swimming Championships, there is not much Nicolas-Guy Turbide hasn’t already accomplished in his illustrious career.
The Quebec City native will be one of 18 Canadians competing from Sept. 9-15 at the London Aquatics Centre, one of the main venues of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
At only 22, Turbide boasts a resume most athletes can only dream of: Paralympic medallist, Parapan American and Pan Pacific champion, multiple Canadian and Americas record holder. Not to mention a pair of Swimming Canada Male Para-swimmer of the Year awards, an honour he merited in 2016 and 2018.
There is, however, one item of note missing from his trophy case.
“I’ve never won a world championship medal. It’s pretty much the only major international competition where I’ve never won a medal,” he says.
Always humble, the visually impaired swimmer is quick to add that reaching the podium won’t be the end goal in the UK capital.
“Of course, winning a medal at worlds is a major objective,” says Turbide, who reached three finals at his world championship debut in Montreal in 2013, when he was only 16, and placed fifth in the 100-m backstroke S13 two years later in Glasgow, Scotland.
“At the same time, even if it doesn’t happen this year, if I manage to perform at my top level, if I continue to improve and achieve personal bests, I won’t be disappointed or angry with myself because I’ll know I did everything I could to try and achieve that goal.
“I can’t control what other swimmers will do. All I can control is what I personally do in training and competition. It’s the only power I have. If I manage to achieve my best time by even one hundredth of a second, no matter my position at the end of the race, I’ll be very satisfied with myself. I’ll have no regrets.”
Of course, when it comes to his performances in the pool, it’s safe to say Turbide hasn’t had many regrets since he made the Canadian squad for the 2011 Parapan American Games as a 14-year-old.
Holding five national marks and three Americas records in long course events, he claimed bronze in the 100-m backstroke S13 and reached another final (50-m freestyle S13) in his first Paralympic Games appearance in 2016. A year earlier in Toronto, he captured a sensational six Parapan Am medals, including three gold. At last summer’s Pan Pacific Championships in Australia, he went a perfect 4-for-4 in podium finishes, including two triumphs.
As for personal bests, he has set five in the past 12 months alone, in the 50-m free, 50 and 100-m back, 100-m butterfly and 200-m individual medley. All events he is set to compete in in London, except the 50-m back.
Not bad for someone who openly admits swimming was never part of the plan as a kid… mainly because he was afraid of water.
“When I was young, my goal was to play golf like my parents. I would stand in front of my father, who is left-handed, and try to imitate his movements,” explains Turbide, who still resides in Quebec City and trains at Club de Natation Région de Québec with coach Marc-André Pelletier.
“My parents suggested that practising another sport could help me get stronger because I was very frail, my growth spurt came late. That’s when I was introduced to swimming.
“At first, I was really scared of water, perhaps because of my visual impairment. It took a long time for me to enjoy it. However, as soon as I took part in my first competition, it’s as if my pride and will to win got the better of my fear. I really liked the competitive aspect of the sport and that’s what made me stick to swimming.”
Today, almost a decade into a brilliant international career, it looks like Turbide might stick to swimming for a little while longer.
“Right now, my focus is 100% on these world championships and Tokyo 2020. But at the same time, it’s never crossed my mind that Tokyo could be my last Paralympic Games. I love what I do so much at the moment. I’ve always said to myself that the day I no longer appreciate the process of high performance sport, things like getting up early in the morning, making sacrifices that other people might not be willing to make, I’m going to stop.
“What we do is very gratifying. Our reward is competing at these international events, representing Canada, travelling the world. But it’s also very demanding. For now, every year, I still feel the desire to continue. The fire still burns. The day I don’t feel that way, I’ll move on. But I don’t think that day is close yet.”
LONDON 2019: The 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, which run from Sept. 9-15 at the London Aquatics Centre, will serve as the first qualifying event for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Webcast will be available on the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Swimming Canada Facebook Live platforms. Nicolas-Guy Turbide is set to compete in the 50-m freestyle S13, 100-m backstroke S13, 100-m butterfly S13 and 200-m individual medley SM13.