Despite injuries, Paralympic Program Swimmer of the Year Turbide ages like fine wine
Nicolas-Guy Turbide openly admits his 26-year-old body no longer allows him to go all out, all the time the way he used to in his younger days.
Hampered by injuries in recent years, the Quebec City native has had to adjust his training regimen, even “relearn how to train,” in his own words, “to keep the intensity for when I need it the most”.
Obviously, the plan worked in 2022.
Following yet another exceptional season, highlighted by a pair of memorable career firsts, Turbide was named Swimming Canada’s Male Swimmer of the Year (Paralympic Program) for the second straight campaign, and the fifth time since 2016.
“Yes, receiving an award like this is still flattering,” said the two-time Paralympian. “It never really gets old. It’s a nice recognition for the work Marc-André (Pelletier) and I do on a daily basis, but also for the many sacrifices over the years.”
One could say the visually impaired athlete had nothing left to prove entering the 2022 season.
After all, he had medalled in his specialty event, the 100-metre backstroke S13, in each of his Paralympic Games appearances, claiming bronze at Rio 2016 before improving to silver at Tokyo 2020.
Other career highlights included silver in the 100 back at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, a pair of titles at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, as well as a six-medal performance, including three gold, at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
Turbide, however, proved that like fine wine, he gets better over time.
First came his first world title last June in Madeira, Portugal, in his beloved 100 back.
“I knew the door was open for me in 2022, that I had a good chance,” said Turbide, who was making his fourth career appearance at worlds. “Based on my physical capacities and my goals, Marc and I kind of put all our eggs in one basket. We followed all the necessary steps to be 100 per cent ready for that day, for that event. And we got the result we wanted.
“I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to go even further. The only better result than a silver medal was a gold medal, and being crowned world champion.”
Turbide was scheduled to swim the 50 freestyle the day after his 100 back triumph. But his body had had enough for one competition.
“Physically, I couldn’t do it. We made the decision that, since the event was on the Commonwealth Games program the following month, we were going to focus on that.
“From the day of the 100 back at worlds, we focused on the 50 free at Commonwealth. We wanted to make sure I was at 100 per cent for that one event. And again, that’s exactly what happened.”
The Commonwealth Games is the only major international meet Turbide had yet to compete in over his illustrious career, mainly due to a limited Para swimming offering over the years.
On July 30 in Birmingham, England, Turbide not only won the 50 free S13 gold medal by one hundredth of a second over Scotland’s Stephen Clegg, he did so in a Canadian record time of 24.32.
“Like worlds, I only had that one event. It was make or break. And even more so in the 50 free, where the margin of error is minimal. I had an ideal race, exactly the way we planned it.”
The long-time head coach of Club de Natation Région de Québec in Quebec City, Marc-André Pelletier has been working with Turbide since 2014.
He has played a key role not only in his protege’s remarkable success over the past decade, but also in the way he has been able to deal with injuries in recent years.
“With Nic, we can no longer do what we used to without risking medium or long-term repercussions. We always have to pay attention, be very professional in order to work around his limitations.
“I’d say his main qualities are his mental strength and self-control. He’s able to keep his emotions at the right level, not too high, not too low. For me, a good athlete is someone who’s able to turn on a dime, and Nic can do that. After a tough blow, whether physical or mental, he’s able to recover quickly and get back to the top.”
Five months away from his fifth world championships in Manchester, England (July 31 – Aug. 6), Turbide is hopeful he can keep winning – and even improving – despite his physical challenges.
“Physically, it’s still difficult day to day,” said the Université Laval student, who is set to earn his bachelor’s degree this year and hopes to pursue a career in financial planning. “I’m not doing the same volume of training I used to, but I’m still able to be at my best in terms of performance.
“In December, I set two PB’s at a short-course meet in Quebec City (in the 50 free and 50 back) just before I turned 26. It’s hard to ask for much better.”
“In my career, I’ve never looked too far ahead. I think it’s something that has always benefited me in the longer term. Don’t try to look too far ahead without going through all the necessary steps to get there. It’s a dangerous game, and it’s quite easy to fall into the trap.
“I prefer to go day by day and give my best every day.”
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