Turbide takes unusual approach to training ahead of Canadian swimming trials

·3 min read

TORONTO — Paralympian Nicolas-Guy Turbide has had to go against conventional wisdom as he prepares for the Canadian swimming trials.

Turbide earned bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics and silver at the Tokyo Games, both in the men's 100-metre backstroke, and followed that up with gold in the men's 50-metre freestyle at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games on July 30.

He did all that despite learning in 2021 that his nervous system will collapse if he overexerts himself for too many days in a row.

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"It's not the advice we often give to swimmers but I really have to listen to how I feel on the day," he said, sitting in the poolside stands at Toronto's Pan Am Centre.

"Some days I'll be absolutely fine and those are the days I'm going to push much harder since I know that my body will be able to handle it and I need to stop at the right moment so I don't trigger myself to get in that zone where my nervous system doesn't work well anymore."

Turbide, who competes in the S13 category for visually impaired swimmers, said that he'll sometimes have to quit a training session after six or seven strokes because he gets exhausted so quickly. Instead of time in the pool, he'll have to go lift weights or do another exercise instead of swimming.

That has made training for events like this week's Canadian swimming trials a challenge.

"That's what I had to do for pretty much the last six, seven months since the last season ended for us after the Commonwealth Games," said Tubride, who said being horizontal when he swims aggravates his back and nervous system. "So my big focus this week will be shorter sprint events where I'm able to train a lot better than if I was swimming 100 or 200 metres."

Wednesday will be the first day of competition for the 26-year-old Quebec City native at the national trials, where Swimming Canada will select its teams for this summer’s world championships and other international competitions like the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, a stepping-stone to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Junior, senior, and Paralympic heats will be held in morning and evening sessions through to Sunday.

"This week is going to be all about protecting my performance," said Turbide, who intends to swim in Paralympic and senior categories. "I'm sure I can pull off amazing performance in the 50 back with the Olympic program as well as in the 50 freestyle with the Paralympic program.

"Then I have the 100-metre backstroke on Sunday, which is the last day, so we'll see how the week goes. This will be my second priority for this week since I've mostly focused on my 50 meter freestyle for the past few months."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press