My Story: Raising a Paralympic Athlete

benoit and mom

Lucie Huot is the mom of Canadian Paralympic swimmer Benoit Huot. Benoit, whose disability is a club foot, started swimming competitively at age 10. Since then, Benoit has become of one Canada’s most accomplished Paralympians, capturing 19 Paralympic medals at four Paralympic Games. His best Paralympic Games were in Athens in 2004 with five gold medals and a silver medal. Benoit won 3 more medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, including a gold medal in the SM10 200-metre individual medley in world record time. Most recently, Benoit has qualified to compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, which will be his fifth Games. Here is Lucie and Benoit’s story.

The art of normalcy is something we all take for granted sometimes. While none of us live the crazy life of a celebrity, sometimes the comforts in our day-to-day life, like going for a hike or playing a game of pick-up hockey seems so simple. For a high performance para-athlete like my son, not every day is normal.

I knew Ben was destined to be a Paralympian from 1998 when he competed in the Canadian championships and became a World Champion at just the age of 14. It was truly a life-changing experience for him and our entire family. From there, he became part of the Paralympics team and went on to become a nine-time gold medal winner.

Since Ben started competing very competitively at such a young age we’ve always worked to keep a sense of normalcy in his day-to-day life. Though he travels the world we make sure he always has a part of home with him.

When he was younger we would always take the time and run through a checklist before he left, making sure he had his shampoo, toothpaste, mouth wash, etc. all packed. It was our ritual, and the perfect excuse to spend some time together.

The most important item on the checklist was always to ensure he had a fresh, clean towel that smelled of Tide detergent, so he could wrap himself in it, when he hopped out of the pool. We would call him the night after the first meet and remind him to hang it up so he could still have the smell of home to wrap himself in, on the second day of competition. We’ve always tried to do little things like that to remind Ben of home, and that we are always there with him.

Even if my husband, daughter and I did go to competitions, the team departed often weeks before meaning that we didn’t often spend much time with him leading up his big competitions. This will be the same in Rio—Ben will be heading there much before us!

When he was living at home and we were lucky enough to be with him in the days leading up to big competitions, we helped him take the time to do activities that were as normal as possible, and move away from the competition mindset. Ben loves golfing, hockey and Formula 1 Racing, so we helped shift his focus to these things. We helped him go about his life, spend time with friends and family and provide perspective—it kept him out of his own head. We reminded him that focusing entirely on the competition could be counterproductive, and that, no matter what, at the end of the day we’d be right there, cheering him on, ready to wrap him up in a small piece of home, no matter where he is.

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