It doesn’t seem that long ago when Nicolas-Guy Turbide was a shy, unilingual 14-year-old on the Canadian Para swimming team. Certainly, it was clear already back then, he possessed the talent to be a star in the sport but it’s the maturity he has gained ever since that really stands out.
Now 22, with a full grasp of both official languages, Turbide carries himself with confidence and professionalism that make one hope he’ll be a permanent contributor to the Para sport movement for many years to come.
‘’In the last year, I’ve had the honour to be selected by my coaches and teammates to be one of the leaders of Team Canada which is something at 14 I would never have dreamed of,’’ said Turbide.
‘’I didn’t speak one word of English, I was shy, but I listened a lot and learned a lot. And now it’ s my turn to give back to the younger generation so they can have a great experience like I did.’’
In his first eight years with the national team, Turbide has swam with some great role models in Paralympic sport. They include Benoit Huot, who retired this season after earning 20 Paralympic medals in five Games participations.
‘’Benoit was an excellent mentor for me when we were together on the national team,’’ he said. ‘’He has values that I try to emulate. He was the best guide I could have asked for to establish myself in the national team system and perform at the international level.’’
The visually impaired swimmer is competing this week at the IPC World Para swimming Championships in London. Back at the 2016 Paralympic Games, Turbide won the bronze medal in the S13 100-m backstroke.
These are the first worlds since 2015. In 2017, the worlds were scheduled for Mexico but were delayed due to the Earthquake and Canada was unable to participate.
‘’I’ve never won a medal at the world championships and I think this year it’s a realistic goal,’’ he said. ‘’For the last few years my focus has been on the 100-m back and that is my best potential. Last summer was probably the best end of season of my career because how I approached my training. I felt good and I was ready.
Needless to say, these worlds are very important for the 2020 Paralympic Games preparation. For the first time since Rio, Para swimmers will see the competition landscape for Tokyo.
‘’These worlds are the best measuring point to see how the Games will go,’’ Turbide said. ‘’We get a good idea about our competition, about their strengths and potential. Of course, there’s nothing that is 100 percent clear or what the results will be next year but it’s good for the preparations for Tokyo.’’
Turbide is coached by Marc-André Pelletier at the Club de Natation Region de Quebec. Last season he won two gold, a silver and a bronze at the Para Pan Pacific Championships where he lowered his Canadian record in the 100 back.
He was named Swimming Canada’s Male Para swimmer of the Year for 2016 and 2018
‘’I give Marc all my trust for my training and that’s why I’ve performed well over the last few years,’’ he said. ‘’Even though there can be tough moments in the year like when you’re slower than usual, he is always the one that motivates me, that keeps me on the game plan and tells me it will work out. And so far, I can’t say we’ve had any disappointments when it really counts.’’
Turbide also has a great support system at home. His entire family is into sport. His father is a successful professional golfer in Quebec.
‘’There was a big sports environment in the house growing up,’’ Turbide said. ‘’My goal when I was younger was to follow my father in golf. I tried to watch him and duplicate him on the golf course. We are both lefthanded and I tried to be as good as him. I still haven’t reached that level but it’s a long-term objective.
'’My father’s knowledge in sport has always been a good guide for me especially with how I react to a performance. My parents and sister have always been my biggest support group. They are always there for me, they always know how to react to a good or bad performance. Just to have them there is a big help in my progression.’’
Perhaps the most important challenge for Turbide in his career is coming back from injuries including a recent shoulder problem.
‘’The injuries I’ve had over the last few years have been the biggest part of my learning experience since the Rio Games,’’ he said. ‘’I wasn’t aware of the importance of stretching when I was younger. I guess from a certain standpoint I thought I was invincible and that I would never get injured.’’
Three’s no doubt it will the new and improved version of Turbide that steps on the blocks for 100-m backstroke on Tuesday.