Parksville swimmer Nick Bennett has claimed two gold medals in swimming at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The member of the Ravensong Breakers in Qualicum Beach shone in the first two days of competition, winning gold in the 100-metre breaststroke in one minute, 10.53 seconds, setting a Canadian record on Sunday. Then the next night, Bennett followed it up with a second gold in the S14 200 freestyle in 1:59.10.
The 16-year-old just missed winning his third medal when he finish fourth in the 100 back in 1:06.44 on Tuesday, just 2.2 seconds behind his Canadian teammate Tyson MacDonald, who won the gold medal.
Bennett will have two more opportunities to add to his medal collection when he competes in the 100 back and in the 200 individual medley. He already advanced to the final of the 100 back but the result at press time was not available.
This is Bennett’s first time to compete in a major Paralympic competition. Much of his initial training came under Byron Trajan, head coach of the Ravensong Breakers. Leading up to the games, his sister Haley Bennett, a former competitive swimmer, has been coaching him and helping him prepare for Lima.
Haley was in Peru to watch her younger brother compete and win. She expected Nick to do well.
“He had nationals two weeks before Lima where he improved most of his times and broke his own Canadian records, so I knew he was prepared,” said Haley. “I was a bit nervous for him because it’s his first paralymic games experience, but he really showed up for it.”
Before heading to Lima, Bennett represented the Breakers at the 2019 Canadian Swimming Championships in Winnipeg, Aug. 8-11, where he placed first in the Para category in 100 fly, 100 breast, 200 free and 200 IM, and fifth in 100 back. He broke his own Canadian record in the 100 free, swimming it as an exhibition event, and also broke his own national records in both the 200 free and 200 IM.
Bennett is making a strong case for himself to land a spot in Team Canada for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer. Haley said that Nick is deeply focused on this and she believes he has a great chance of achieving it.
“The key to his success in Lima has been his drive,” said Haley. “He is the hardest-working guy I’ve ever met, and he’s been training twice a day, six days a week in the pool and the gym for well over a year now. He gives everything he has in training every day, and everyone else that works with him tells me the same thing. He loves to race, and he really likes to win. Before a competition he gets excited rather than nervous. All of that makes him a great competitor.”
Haley said that Nick has no plans to rest on his laurels once the Lima games are over as he will travel back and forth to Montreal to train at Team Canada’s high performance centre until Olympic Trials in April.
“He’ll get the best training and preparation possible,” said Haley. “He already has three Tokyo qualifying times — in the 100 breast, 200 free and 200 IM — so I’d say his chances are pretty good, but it really comes down to his performance at Olympic Trials. I have complete faith in him.”