Alex Parent recently completed his fifth year at McMaster University in Hamilton, and now is back in Fort Frances for the summer after wrapping up his final varsity season with their swim team.
The 23-year-old, who will graduate with an Honours in Environmental Science degree next year, said he has “used up all of my varsity eligibility, so no more varsity swimming for me.”
“I will still be training with the team full-time next year . . . but not competing with the team,” he added.
Parent, who lost part of a leg to cancer when he was a child, still will be busy, however, focusing on different sprints rather than distance races.
“I still have a few para meets that I will be attending throughout the year, and that will be my main focus now,” he remarked.
“Throughout the varsity season, there’s probably 12 dual meets that we do, which cuts into training a little bit.
“So [next year] will be a good opportunity for me to just focus on my training, technique, and getting my races down more solid before I go into the meets,” he explained.
Parent ended his final season with the Marauders by winning a coveted award.
“It was the ‘Male Swimmer of the Year’ for the varsity team that I swim on at McMaster,” he noted.
“It’s awarded to someone whom the team votes represents what it means to be a Marauders’ swimmer in terms of performance, dedication to the program, support of others, leadership—an overall trait award for swimmers.
“It’s a really big honour to win it for me,” he added. “There’s lots and lots of really great swimmers on that team that I feel are far more deserving than myself, so for them to vote for me really means a lot.”
There are 20 full-time competitive males on the team, with 10 on reserve. The same goes for the female members, so overall about 60 people cast ballots for the male and female swimmer-of-the-year awards.
But in coming home, Parent has found it more difficult to maintain his rigorous training schedule, especially with a full-time job, a shoulder injury, and the local pool shutting down for maintenance from June 22-July 9.
“It will put a little bit of a damper on my training in the pool,” he conceded. “But the off-season, which is now, is a good opportunity to get to the gym and build some strength to try and translate into the pool the following season.
“So although I won’t be able to swim for that time, it will still be productive,” he stressed.
Time away the water can greatly affect performance.
“It varies from swimmer to swimmer,” Parent said. “I know for myself I start seeing a huge drop in performance after only three days out of the pool.
“You have a feel for the water and as soon as that starts to go, your efficiency goes down, which will then, in turn, make you slower,” he noted.
“Makes you not be able to train as hard for as long.
“After about seven days, you start losing fitness, cardiovascularly,” he continued.
“It will be a bit of a hit to my overall fitness, but the good thing is doing weights maintains a lot of that.”
Parent said this is his first summer back at home, adding that if he was in Hamilton, he would be swimming with the varsity team.
“I usually stay for the summer and train, but after the Olympic and Paralympic trials, I thought it was a good time to come home and take a little break, unwind, refocus, and remotivate for the next four years I plan on swimming,” he remarked.
“So this summer is okay if I lose a little bit in fitness because I will be able to gain it back,” he reasoned.
“And if it means that I’m not stressed out or frustrated with swimming, then it will be a much more productive year.”
Working a full-time job this summer also makes it difficult to “train at the intensity and duration that I’m used to,” Parent admitted.
“I’m used to putting 25-plus hours into training each week,” he explained. “Eight times a week for two hours in the pool, five one-and-a-half hour sessions in the gym, and then about three hours of stretching.
“It’s mostly weight-focused right now [and closer to 15 hours training per week], which is good.
“It’s a nice break from the pool,” he added.
Looking to the future, Parent said at this point, he wants to train for the next four years.
“I was only training sprints for about six months [before the Olympic and Paralympic trials back in April for the London 2012 Games later this summer], so to go from distance to sprints in that amount of time was pretty good,” he noted.
“So I’m pretty excited to see what a year of training sprints will do.”
Parent described his shoulder problem as “just a chronic injury due to extended use . . . bicep tendonitis.”
He likes the sprints, as his shoulder is able to handle them better. And they are a nice change from the longer races.
“I’m used to swimming longer freestyle races but with current shoulder injuries, I’ve had to reduce my volume,” he said.
“And the only way to reduce volume and still be successful is to reduce the amount of distance you compete in.”
Parent said to be a sprinter, you train shorter distances, with a lot more intensity.
“Luckily, my shoulder is able to keep up with that,” he remarked.
“It’s a new stage in my swimming career that I’ve really enjoyed doing,” he added.
“I’m pretty confident that the next four years will remain sprint-focused.”