Nicolas Turbide stood beside the starting block in Lane 4, hands on his hips facing the water ahead.
Then came the deep breaths, hand rubbing, leg shakes and some shoulder swings. A problem with one of the starting blocks meant such pre-swim rituals went on a little longer than usual.
“I had plenty of time to think about things before my race,” said the 18-year-old from Quebec City. “What I thought about, mostly, was this is my main event, I’ve trained for this and everything will go well — and it did.”
His 100-metre backstroke on Sunday evening more than went well.
Turbide won gold — making him Canada’s first double gold medallist of these Parapan Am Games — and he did it in the fastest time he’s ever clocked in the 100 backstroke.
That pairs well with the gold medal, also won in a personal best time, he earned Saturday in the 200 individual medley.
Turbide found out he’d won his backstroke event by the sound of crowd.
“I knew it was good,” he said, based on the cheers from the sizeable crowd at the CIBC Aquatics Centre.
During the race, Turbide, who is visually impaired, has no idea where his competitors are or how well he’s doing.
“It’s a race on my own.”
In this case, he was a full body length ahead by the first wall and a couple lengths in front when he stopped the clock at 1:01.64 for the gold. Canadian teammates Devin Gotell won silver and Tyler Mrak took bronze.
“It’s always fun to end the year with a good meet,” Turbide said. “You know it went well and could go well again.”
But for Turbide, winning is about more than the fun of getting a medal, it’s an important stage of development for him as an elite athlete.
“In order to win at the world stage you have to know what you’re doing. It’s not just stand up and it happens,” said Craig McCord, Canada’s national para-swimming coach.
Just three weeks ago at the IPC swimming world championships in Glasgow several athletes, including Turbide, didn’t perform as well as expected, McCord said.
For some, it may have been a “deer in the headlights” moment, for others it could have been the result of the wrong kind of preparation. So for them, the Parapan Ams provided an important do-over.
“It’s learning to stand up and get the job done in the moment under pressure, and this is one of those meets,” McCord said.
With two gold medals already, Turbide has shown he can deliver his best when it counts and he is one of the young swimmers Canada hopes will medal next summer in Rio or at the 2020 Paralympics.
McCord said winning in Toronto is “going to be another stepping stone for him.”
There were plenty of such stepping stones for Canadians in the pool on Sunday. They won five gold, five silver, seven bronze and swept the podium in two events.
Morgan Bird won her women’s 400-metre freestyle race by several lengths and in the next event, the Canadian men swept the 100 breaststroke, with James Leroux taking gold, Isaac Bouckley silver and Alexander Elliot bronze.
Elliot doesn’t even train for the event.
“I might actually try training it now,” said the 19-year-old from Kitchener.
The confidence boost of a podium in his first try will certainly help him in the days ahead when he competes in his best events.
“You definitely get a great feeling from winning a medal,” Elliot said. “It’s an amazing experience and it makes you want to have it again. It drives you in the pool, it’s motivation to swim faster in practices, swim faster in races.”
Later Sunday night, Bird became Canada’s first female athlete to win two gold medals at these Games when she won her classification in the women’s 50 freestyle.
Zack McAllister, meanwhile, brought home gold in the men’s 50 freestyle.