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TheRockies.Life Staff

Local Para-Swimmer Sets Sights On Paralympics After Breaking Multiple Records

With many national records and an unofficial world record under his belt, the talented St. Albert athlete has his sights set on the 2024 Paralympic Games

Albertans rise to the challenge, and Reid Maxwell, a talented para-swimmer from St. Albert, is proof of that. 

Maxwell was born without a lower right leg and lives with Prune Belly Syndrome (PBS). 

PBS is a rare disorder defined by a partial or complete absence of the stomach muscles.

A lack of stomach muscles causes the skin of the belly area to wrinkle like a prune.

But Maxwell’s physical disability and disorder do not define him.

An Athlete Through and Through

In 2018, Maxwell was swimming five times a week.

On top of swimming, he cycled with the Juventus Cycling Club and snowboarded with Canadian Adaptive Snowsports.

Those are just some of his many accomplishments. Maxwell has also completed many triathlons and even played junior peewee football when he was younger. 

“I can’t run nearly as fast as the other people, but I can tackle just as hard,” Maxwell told CBC News

But what Maxwell lacks in speed on the ground, he makes up for in the water.

Maxwell playing football in 2018 | CBC News
Maxwell playing football in 2018 | CBC News

Shattering Records 

At just 16 years old, Maxwell broke the Canadian S8 record for the 400-metre freestyle swim at last fall’s Ken Demchuk Invitational in Surrey, BC.

Shortly after, the young swimmer competed at the JP Fiset Invitational in Edmonton and broke the Canadian S8 records for the 200m freestyle, 100m backstroke, and 200m backstroke. 

S8 is Maxwell’s para-swimming classification. The S represents the backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly swimming strokes.

The eight refers to his level of disability on a scale of one to ten, with one being the highest degree of physical impairment. 

The Demchuk Invitational was the first time Maxwell competed at the S8 level. But that didn’t stop him from breaking four national records previously held by 28-year-old Philippe Vachon from Quebec.

Even while competing as an S9, Maxwell set the national record for the 100m freestyle at the 2023 Bell Canadian Swim Trial in Toronto. 

Last month, at the JP Fiset Invitational, Maxwell “unofficially” beat the world record S8 time for the 800m freestyle by almost three seconds. 

“Technically, the world record is unofficial because for it to be official, there has to be all the bells and whistles and drug testing, all that kind of stuff, and it has to be a sanctioned meet,” Maxwell explained.

Maxwell competing at the 2023 Bell Canadian Swim Trial | Swimming Canada | St. Albert Gazette
Maxwell competing at the 2023 Bell Canadian Swim Trial | Swimming Canada | St. Albert Gazette

The Bigger Picture

Maxwell’s athletic feats are impressive, but are they enough to earn him a spot at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games?

There are no guarantees, but Maxwell is hopeful his new records will improve his odds of representing Canada at the event.

At the very least, his stellar performance in the 400m and 800m freestyle at the Ken Demchuk Invitational secured him multiple Minimum Qualifying Standard (MQS) swims. 

Quebec's Philippe Vachon, who holds several national records |
AMI-télé | YouTube
Quebec’s Philippe Vachon, who holds several national records |
AMI-télé | YouTube

As the name suggests, MQS is the minimum standard athletes must meet before qualifying for the Games.

Having met the MQS, Maxwell will head to Scotland in February to compete in the first Citi Para Swimming World Series event in 2024.

Next, Maxwell will head to Portugal in April to participate in the 2024 European Open. Both events are part of the Paralympic eligibility process.

If Maxwell crushes his performances at these events, we could see him at the Games. 

“I’m kind of just curious where I’m going after breaking records because breaking records gets your name out there and everything, makes you a little bit more well-known,” said Maxwell.

Maxwell has already made an impression on the sport, with former record holder Vachon congratulating the young athlete in a message to the Gazette

“First and foremost, I would like to warmly congratulate Maxwell on his recent performances. Even though I still feel a slight twinge in my heart to see my 400-metre freestyle record be surpassed,” said Vachon.

“I look forward to witnessing what he is capable of and potentially competing with him at the upcoming Paralympic Games,” he continued.

Against the odds, Maxwell has made a name for himself as a para-swimmer. With his hard work and talent, there’s no telling how far he will go!

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