Alex Parent wasn’t going to squander another opportunity.
After missing the finals in all of his events at the International Paralympic Committee world championships three years ago, the Fort Frances native was determined to be in the medal round this time around.
The 20-year-old reached that goal in two of his three events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from Nov. 30-Dec. 5, placing eighth in both the 400m freestyle (with a time of 4:34.09) and the 200m I.M. (2:27.94).
In his other event, the 100m freestyle, Parent came ninth—a sliver away from the final.
“I’m very, very satisfied with how things went,” Parent said last week from Hamilton, where he is studying at McMaster University.
“I ended up getting best times in all of my races, which is another one of my goals.”
Parent, who lost his right leg above the knee to a rare bone cancer—osteogenic sarcoma—as a child, seems to step up at the world championships. In his first appearance, in Durban, South Africa in 2006, he set new personal bests in four of his five events.
One major area Parent worked to develop between South Africa and Brazil was being ready to go for those early-morning heats.
The solution, he found, was taking longer warm-ups.
“[This time], I usually swam about two km to warm up for a race, and I was really focusing on quick leg work,” Parent explained.
“Depending on which race I’m doing, I might do more sprints,” he noted. “And then for longer races, like the 400m, I would just do a little more pace work.
“I still really had to get my time down in the morning. . . . This time, I was just more aware of what I had to do.”
Knowing what to do is one thing—actually doing it another. But Parent’s coach, Andrew Cole, said there is no question his protégé will stop at nothing to complete both steps.
“His work ethic has been exemplary. He really knows how to dig hard and do whatever it takes to have some success,” said Cole, who has coached Parent for two years.
“He’s been fantastic to work with, and the other athletes on the team just love him,” he added.
Cole said he first met Parent during tryouts for the McMaster University swim team, when he showed up unexpectedly.
“We didn’t really know he was coming,” recalled Cole.
“He is a character to say the least,” Cole added. “He showed up with hair halfway down his back.
“He didn’t look like a swimmer, for sure.
“But the first week we had him, we took him on a team-building exercise and we had to do a 15-km hike and he did the whole thing, and the next day was the Terry Fox Run and he did all of that,” Cole continued.
“He could just get his head wrapped around anything and so he was immediately the inspiration for the team.”
Parent’s next goal is to land a spot on the national Paralympic team for the 2012 Games in London, England. But the qualifying times are more strict, so only 20 Canadians attend, compared to the 30 who trekked down to Rio.
“It’s something I’m going to be working on for the next two or so years,” said Parent. “My coach and I are going to be making sure I’m on track.”
Parent knows exactly what he needs to do to get there.
“I definitely need to get my speed up a bit, and I need just better fitness,” he conceded. “So basically just more weight training and more work on the technique.”