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St. Albert swimmer named to Canada's Paralympic team for Paris 2024

Reid Maxwell, a 16-year-old para swimming phenom from St. Albert, will represent Canada at the 2024 Paris Paralympics later this summer.

Reid Maxwell, a 16-year-old para swimming phenom from St. Albert, will represent Canada at the 2024 Paris Paralympics later this summer.

“It's still pretty surreal,” Maxwell told the Gazette after recently being named to Canada's 20-member Paralympic swim team. 

“I don't think it's really set in yet, but yes, I'm excited and I'm really happy about this.”

Maxwell, the youngest member of the team going to Paris, is a Canada Summer Games medal winner and holds several Canadian records at the S8 level, which refers to his para-swimming classification.

READ MORE: Local swimmer breaks national records, sets unofficial world record

The S covers the backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly swimming strokes, and the 8 refers to Maxwell's level of disability on a 1-10 scale, with a ranking of one being considered the highest degree of physical impairment.

Maxwell was born without a lower right leg and lives with Prune Belly Syndrome, which the United States-based National Organization for Rare Disorders says is mainly characterized by a partial or complete absence of stomach muscles.

Set to accompany Maxwell in Paris are numerous past Paralympic swimming medal winners, such as Aurélie Rivard of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, who won five medals (two golds) in Tokyo in 2020, four medals (three golds) in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and a silver at the 2012 London Paralympics.

Also competing for Canada in Paris will be Katarina Roxon, 31, of Kippens, Newfoundland and Labrador, who will make her Canadian-record-breaking fifth Paralympics appearance.

In total, all but eight of Canada's 2024 Paralympic swim team have competed at the Paralympic level before. Another swimmer set to make their Paralympic debut beside Maxwell is Philippe Vachon of Blainville, Quebec, who saw his 400-metre freestyle, 200-metre freestyle, 100-metre backstroke, and 200-metre backstroke national S8 records be broken by Maxwell in November and December of last year.

Maxwell said he had the opportunity to meet most of his new teammates before they were named to the Paralympic roster in previous competitions, but he's not sure how he feels about being the youngest competitor.

“It's kind of exciting, but also, I guess, nerve-wracking at the same time,” he said. “I'm kind of just looking at Paris wanting to perform.”

“I don't really know what my expectations are in Paris yet, but we'll see.”

Maxwell wasn't sure which events he'll be competing in at the Paralympics quite yet, but said he'll likely swim the 400-metre freestyle and 100-metre backstroke.

“400-metre freestyle definitely just because it's my highest world ranking event... and the 100-metre backstroke would be nice just because I've been swimming a lot of 100-metre back lately, and it's been going pretty well,” he said.

Leading up to the Paris Paralympics, which get underway at the end of August, Maxwell said he'll likely do some training with his new teammate, Swimming Canada's 2023 Male Swimmer of the Year in the Paralympic Program, Nicholas Bennett of Parksville, B.C., who lives and trains in Red Deer.

Other than Bennett, Maxwell is the only Albertan on Canada's Paralympic swim roster.

“I'll probably be training with [Bennett] a handful of times just because he's close and his coach will be my coach in Paris,” Maxwell explained. “We've got a staging camp for a couple of weeks in B.C., and then we go to Paris.”

“I still think I haven't quite processed it... I got named to the team and I was super excited, but, like, I did not know how to feel.”

Once Maxwell jumps in the pool in Paris his name will be added to a rather prestigious list of St. Albert athletes who have competed at the Olympic and Paralympic level, such as Jarome Iginla, who won two golds with the Canadian men's hockey team in 2002 and (famously) 2010; Marc Kennedy, a curler who won gold in 2010 and bronze in 2022; Meaghan Mikkelson, who won gold in 2010 and 2014 and a bronze in 2018 as a member of Canada's women's hockey team; and Marisa Dick, a gymnast who represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and was the first woman to represent the country in the sport.

RELATED: Olympic history for St. Albert gymnast

St. Albert has also been well represented in past Paralympics by Jennifer (Goose) Krempian, a three-time gold medal winner as a member of Canada's women's wheelchair basketball team in 1992, 1996, and 2000, followed by a bronze in 2004; Tara Feser, another wheelchair basketball player who competed for Canada in 2008 and 2012; Arinn Young, yet another wheelchair basketball player who will make her third Paralympics appearance this summer; and Angelena Dolezar, a sitting volleyball player who's set to make her third Paralympics appearance in Paris, although her and her team are coming off 7th and 4th place finishes in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo respectively.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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