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B.C.’s Bennett named Canada’s 2023 Paralympic male swimmer of the year

Parksville athlete now has his sights set on 2024 Paris Paralympics
Parksville swimmer Nicholas Bennett earns first swimmer of the year award. (Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol photo)

Parksville swimmer Nicholas Bennett was named Canada’s 2023 Male Swimmer of the Year in the Paralympic program.

“I’m quite proud to be receiving this award, and honoured to follow in the footsteps of previous winners, including current national team teammates,” said Bennett, in a Swimming Canada news release. He also had previously been named the national Breakout Swimmer of the Year award in 2021.

“I think it comes down to all the hard work we’ve been putting into it. All the great coaching and support I’ve received over the past five years has helped me excel every time I get on the world stage.”

In just four years of international competition, Bennett has built a resume most swimmers can only dream of putting together over the course of an entire career. He broke onto the world stage at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, where, at only 15, he captured four medals, three of them gold.

Two years later, as the youngest member of the entire Canadian delegation at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, he set national records in all four events in which he competed, reaching three finals. Then came his Para Swimming World Championships debut at Madeira 2022, where Bennett shone once again with a pair of silver medals.

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Going into his second world championship appearance last summer in Manchester, England, it looked inevitable that Bennett would continue his meteoric rise to stardom. And he did.

The S14 athlete claimed his first career world titles, in the 200-m freestyle and the 200 individual medley, and nearly added a third one in the 100 breaststroke, where he placed second. He lowered his own national standards in both the 200 IM and 100 breast, while also shattering the Americas mark in the latter.

Bennett’s two triumphs marked the first time in over two decades, dating back to Mar del Plata 2002, that a Canadian male swimmer won two or more gold medals at the same edition of the para worlds. For his historic performance in Manchester, Bennett is named Swimming Canada’s 2023 Male Swimmer of the Year – Paralympic Program.

Haley Bennett, Nicholas’s sister, coached him at the Ravensong Aquatic Club in Qualicum Beach and the pair has now moved to the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club in Alberta. She got to witness his accomplishments first-hand at the last two world championships as a member of the Canadian coaching staff.

“The main factor in Nick’s success over the last few years is his work ethic,” she said in a news release. “There’s no one that works harder than he does or gives it their all in the same way he does. He’s worked towards this everyday for years and years.”

When it comes to his exploits in Manchester, the newly crowned world champion said he built on the experience gained the previous year in Portugal.

“With my disability, I find that when I practise things, when I get on the world stage over and over again, it becomes easier for me,” explained Bennett, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was three. “It makes all the difference in the world. It makes it easier for me to perform at that level.”

The 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials, presented by Bell, are set for May 13-19 in Montreal.

About the Author: Parksville Qualicum Beach News Staff

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