By Jim Morris

GLASGOW, Scotland – The torch has been passed.

The gold medal won by Aurelie Rivard and Tess Routliffe’s near miss in Sunday’s final day of the IPC Swimming World Championships show Canada’s young swimmers are finding their place on the international stage.

“I would sort of say there has been a changing of the guard,” said Craig McCord the national Para-swimming coach. “I think the dynamics have changed.”

One of the old guard also came through when Benoit Huot, probably swimming his last world championship race, won a silver in the men’s S10 400-meter freestyle.

Rivard, 19, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., won the women’s S10 400-m freestyle in a Canadian record time of four minutes, 34.06 seconds. That shaved 2.40 seconds off the old record she set at the 2012 London Paralympics.

“I have been fighting for this title for three years,” said Rivard, who won two gold and a pair of silver during the meet. “I couldn’t be happier.

“When I touched the wall I saw the number one and couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a mistake. I couldn’t ask for a better meet.”

Rivard said her world championship performance fuels the fire for next month’s Parapan American Games in Toronto.

“It gives me lots of confidence,” she said. “I am heading to Toronto with peace of mind. I’m just going to have fun and try to beat my record as much as possible.”

Huot, who is competing in his seventh world championships, won silver in 4:11.55. It was the third podium finish of the meet and 32nd world championship medal for the 31-year-old from Longueuil, Que. Alec Elliot of Waterloo, Ont., was seventh in 4:25.06.

Huot chocked up when asked if this was his last world championship podium.

“It’s true,” he said. “I actually thought about that on the bus.”

Huot is pleased with the young swimmers who are following in his wake.

“This makes me so happy,” he said. “It’s a challenge to find those individuals who can compete at a high level who have a disability.

“There is a bright future. They are still young. They are looking good.”

Canada finished the championships with 12 medals (two gold, five silver, five bronze). During the week 24 Canadian records were broken, 37 personal bests set and there were 51 second swims.

Routliffe, 16, finished just .35 of a second out of third place in the S7 50-m freestyle in 35.07 seconds. Sarah Mehain of Vernon, B.C., was fifth in 35.29.

It was Routliffe’s fourth, fourth-place finish of the meet. She called her first world championship a learning experience.

“I have learned to handle my nerves in a way where I can use them to push me instead of break me,’ said the Caledon, Ont., resident. “I learned how to race people and not just race yourself.”

McCord pointed to performances from teenagers like Routliffe, Elliot, 19, and Samantha Ryan, 16, of Saskatoon as evidence of the youth movement in the Para-swimming program.

He credited Ahmed El-Awadi, Swimming Canada’s chief executive officer and John Atkinson, the high performance director, for aligning the Para and Olympic programs into “one big swimming family.”

Among the other medal winners was Routliffe with a silver and Nathan Stein, 23, with a pair of bronze. Mehain, 20, and Katarina Roxon, 22, each won a bronze.

“There is a bright future. They are still young. They are looking good.”

James Hood, the team leader for the world championships, said this group will carry the flag for the next two Paralympics.

“This is our first step on our build toward 2020,” said Hood. “There are small changes we can make for where we are at in 2016.”

In other events Sunday, Zack McAllister of Lethbridge, Alta., swam a Canadian record time of 28.26 seconds to finish eighth in 28.26 seconds.

Gordie Michie of St. Thomas, Ont., swam a Canadian record time of 1:04.66 to finish fifth in the S14 100-m backstroke. That lowered the record of 1:05.08 he set during the morning heats.

Morgan Bird of Calgary was fifth in the women’s 50-m S8 freestyle in 31.93 seconds while Roxon of Kippens, NL, was sixth in the S9 200-m individual medley in 2:42.35.

Justine Morrier of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu was 6th in the S14 100-m backstroke in 1:17.20.

The women’s 4×100-m 34-point medley relay team of Rivard, Roxon, Bird and Routliffe finished eighth in 5:09.90.

Even though the swimmers competing at the world championships face a quick turnaround, McCord expects some strong performances when the Parapans open Aug. 7.

“For some of these guys this was the tougher meet,” he said. “They had to work really hard to get what they got.

”What some of them are going to be able to do is go to Toronto and practice winning, which is something they don’t necessarily do all the time. They need to learn how to win.”

Results can be found at www.paralympic.org/glasgow-2015/schedule/results.

 

Source : Swimming Canada