Canada’s Benoit Huot, a triple medallist at the 2012 London Paralympics, says he’ll have his eye on top rival Andre Brasil when the two compete at this week’s paralympic swimming world championships.
“Andre is definitely the star of our category and he’s going to be racing in both of my events,” the 29-year-old native of Longueuil, Que. said in an interview Monday at a swimming clinic for children.
“I have to admit that I wasn’t the most happy guy when he came on the scene a few years ago, but now we’ve became good friends.”
Huot was Canada’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremony in London after increasing his career paralympic medal total to 19, to go along with 22 world championship medals.
He said Brasil, who’s also 29, came to Montreal a few years to stay at his place and trained together. The Canadian swimmer twice went to his rival’s homeland of Brazil to train with him.
“But when we are behind the blocks in the pool, it’s a war,” Huot said.
Nicknamed “The Shark” for his power and speed, Huot made his comments just hours after three world and four regional records were already set in the pool during the first day of the championships
“I’m very ready,” Huot added. “I’m very excited to have those championships here at home and looking forward to some very fast swimming.”
Huot, who was born with a club foot, said he would be competing against Brasil, who had polio as a child, in the 200-metre individual medley Thursday and 100-metre backstroke Saturday.
Huot won gold in the 200-metre individual medley, silver in the 400-metre freestyle and bronze in the 100-metre backstroke in London last year, while Brasil earned gold in the 100-metre butterfly, 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle and silver in the 100-metre backstroke and 200-metre medley.
Huot is hoping that having the competition in Montreal will increase awareness of all para sports in Canada.
He said 24 Canadians, including eight Quebecers, are taking part in the competitions which run until next Sunday.
“We have a great mix of veterans and rookies, and it’s funny because both the rookies and the veterans win medals,” he said.
Huot added he has a dream.
“I hope that one day the gold medal of the Paralympics will be seen in the eyes of the public as having the same value as Olympic gold,” he said.
The competition at the Parc Jean Drapeau aquatic complex brings together about 500 of the world’s best swimmers from more than 60 countries.
It’s described as the biggest gathering of swimmers since the London Paralympics.
The next Paralympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.