Nicolas-Guy Turbide just kept rolling in 2019. James Leroux enjoyed a comeback season for the ages. The end result was the same: a share of Swimming Canada’s Male Para-swimmer of the Year award.
Turbide earned the distinction for the second straight campaign and for the third time in four years, while Leroux merited the honour for the first time.
“This is once again a great recognition of all the efforts I put in every day, both in and out of the pool,” said the 22-year-old Turbide, who trains with coach Marc-André Pelletier at Club de Natation Région de Québec, in his hometown of Quebec City. “It’s extra motivation to continue to give my best each and every day.”
Leroux, 21, was humbled by the news.
“It’s a great honour. It’s always nice to have the support of Swimming Canada and to feel the entire country behind you,” said the native of Repentigny, Que., who trains out of Montreal’s High Performance Centre – Quebec with coach Mike Thompson.
The national squad teammates both shined when it counted most in 2019, at the World Para Swimming Championships held in September at London.
Turbide reached the podium for the first time in his third career appearance at the event, claiming silver in the 100-m backstroke S13. For good measure, he also set Canadian records in the 50-m freestyle S13 and 200-m individual medley SM13 (also an Americas standard).
For his part, Leroux made the most of his lone event in the UK’s capital. He also captured a silver medal, in the 100-m breaststroke SB9, in Canadian and Americas record time.
“Winning that silver medal and getting on the podium at the world championships was a memorable moment for me,” said Turbide. “It had eluded me a few times in the past, and now I’m happy to be able to say I’ve accomplished that goal.”
“What I’m most proud of when I look at the past year is the new level of professionalism I was able to achieve,” said Leroux. “It gave me a lot of motivation during training and competitions.”
While they are both serious candidates to once again represent Canada at Tokyo 2020, Turbide and Leroux’s careers have followed different paths since they made their Paralympic Games debut three years ago in Rio.
Turbide has been a model of consistency since he claimed bronze in the 100 back in Brazil, and has firmly established himself as one of the faces of the Paralympic program.
Leroux, on the other hand, has gone through ups and downs since his seventh-place finish in the 100 breast in Rio. He even took some time away from the pool in 2018 after failing to make the Pan Pacific Championships team.
“After having a lackluster 2018 season and taking the summer off, James came back way more focused, coachable and motivated,” said Thompson. “He had a lot of hurdles this season between nagging injuries, classification, tons of travel and the changing dates and location of the world championships. None of this waivered his confidence or his focus. He was determined to end up on the podium and had the best race of his life – so far – in London. I’m super proud of him.”
Pelletier sees Turbide’s consistency and steady improvement as a great sign heading into a Paralympic year.
“Nicolas is entirely dedicated to his sport. He never misses a training session and always gives his best. He leads by example and has a great attitude. Obviously, his second-place finish at worlds was without a doubt his best performance and, a year out of the Paralympics, it bodes well for improving his ranking in Tokyo.”
Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate Director of High Performance and Para Swimming National Coach, was also very complimentary of his young national team veterans.
“Nicolas-Guy and James are thoroughly deserving of this swimmer-of-the-year award. Each young man, in his own way, perfectly exhibits the professionalism that we ask for from all members of our team. Both of them go about their business with class, no fuss and total commitment to the task.
“Despite only having one event at worlds, James maintained focus and preparation for the first half of the championships to deliver a terrific PB in the only race that mattered for him. His execution of plan was terrific. As for Nicolas-Guy, he has a unique ability to switch on his game face and transform into a racer at the click of his fingers. His attention to detail and calm approach saw him complete his favoured event, the 100-m backstroke, almost flawlessly.”
Nine months away from a potential Paralympic Games reunion in Japan, the dynamic duo hopes to build on its 2019 success.
“It was very important to have an optimal preparation this past year, and closing out the season with good performances in London was definitely good for confidence,” said Turbide. “We now have a better idea of the competition we’re going to face in Tokyo, and now it’s time to focus on details. The few months that separate us from the Games will go by very quickly.”
“The Paralympic year is the most important of the four-year cycle,” added Leroux. “For me, having the kind of season I just had is exactly what I needed going into 2020. My confidence level needed to be as high as possible in order to get the new season off to a good start, especially after a difficult year in 2018.”