A day before the start of the major North American swimming event of the year, Canadian Paralympic visually impaired swimmer Valérie Grand’Maison announced her retirement from the sport at only twenty-five years of age.
The decision did not come easily for Grand’Maison, with the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) reporting she spent several months thinking about it before making the decision. She is quoted by the CPC as saying, “After much soul searching, I am confident that my swimming career has come to an end. I am grateful to my teammates for their inspiration, to my friends and family for being there for me at all times, and for my support staff and their belief in me at times when I needed it most. Most importantly, thank you to all the coaches that helped me become the best swimmer and person I could be.”
Grand’Maison considers her one greatest sporting memories to be the gold medal she won in the 100-metre butterfly S13 event at the 2008 Summer Paralympics, where her Canadian team swept the podium when Kirby Cote won the silver and Chelsey Gotell won the bronze. She is quoted by the CPC as saying, “Although the race itself is a blur, I do remember vividly the gut-wrenching pre-race jitters and the flowing tears of joy as I stood on the highest step of the podium for the first time.”
Grand’Maison is a three time Paralympic gold medalist, collecting one in London and four in Beijing. She had another four silver medals she won at the Paralympic Games, two from Beijing and two from London. At last year’s world championships in Canada, she won three gold medals and a silver.
At the age of seven, she took up the sport of swimming and began competitive swimming at the age of nine with CAMO, a Montreal based swimming club. When she was 12, she developed mascular degeneration and lost most of her vision the age of 15. CAMO club coach Pierre Lamy suggested she get classified and compete in vision impaired races. As a 17 year old, she was participating in competitive events like 2005 Canada Games. Following that event, she was invited to be a part of the Canadian para-swimming team. The following year, she represented Canada at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. With the except of 2010 when she had a shoulder injury that kept her out of the pool for a while, she went on to be involved with competitive swimming at the highest level until her retirement.
Grand’Maison is currently pursuing Masters in Global Health at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.