Stein announces retirement from swimming

Maple Ridge paralympic athlete Nathan Stein is calling it a career.

Nathan Stein stated his retirement at the announcement of the 2020 BC Summer Games coming to Maple Ridge.

Nathan Stein stated his retirement at the announcement of the 2020 BC Summer Games coming to Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge paralympic athlete Nathan Stein is calling it a career.

The 25-year-old swimmer said he finally gets to say goodbye to 5 a.m. practice sessions that he has been doing since he was nine years old.

“I would be up at 4:30 a.m., slamming down bananas and breakfast so I could go swim for 8 k.”

For as long as he can remember, he has had three training sessions per day, each an hour to 90 minutes long.

He won’t miss that, but there are things about being a world-class athlete that he will miss.

“Definitely the racing – I’ve always loved racing and competing,” he said. “Racing and competing can bring out the best in you. And the worst.”

The highlight of his career was “easily” winning a silver medal in London, at the 2012 Summer Paralympics. He took second in the 50m freestyle, setting a new Canadian record.

“It was an amazing experience … mind blowing.”

At those games, he also made the finals in the 100m free, and finished fifth.

There have been lots of other medals in international swimming.

In 2014, at the Pan Pacific Para-swimming Championships in Pasadena, Calf., he won gold in the 100m butterfly and silver in the 100m free. Those were both new Canadian records.

That same year, he finished third in the 50m freestyle at the British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow.

In 2015, he was dominant at the Toronto Parapan Ams with four silver and two bronze medals.

Stein won four medals at the Parapan Am Games in 2016: silver in the 100m butterfly, bronze in the 50m and 100m freee, and was a member of the four-by-100m 34 pt. freestyle relay that won silver in a Canadian record time.

At his second Paralympic Games in Rio last year, Stein made the final in all three of his events. His best result was a fifth-place finish in both the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle. Stein also finished seventh in the 100m freestyle.

When he was 12, Stein was diagnosed with osteochondritis discans, a condition that has required 11 surgeries on his leg.

He also loves the travel, and meeting interesting athletes from other countries. Particularly with the Paralympic games, there are fascinating stories – like the swimmer from South Africa whose disability is that his leg was bitten off by a great white shark.

Stein said swimming was becoming a job.

“When you get to this level of sport, it becomes more about the business …  instead of just going fast for your country.”

Stein felt pressure to perform, and said nobody applied more of that pressure than the athlete did on himself.

“Now I need the hassle of real-world problems,” he said.

The longtime Haney Neptune will go back to coaching, and is presently working with the Surrey Knights. His coach Reg Shaw moved to the Surrey club in 2008, and Stein followed him there.

Stein hopes that in the future he can be a Paralympic swim coach, and said innovating new techniques to work around competitors’ disabilities would be a fascinating challenge.

He has coached for close to 10 years, and he keeps his approach simple.

“I love seeing progress, and the easiest way to see progress is in a time.”

His family still lives in Maple Ridge, and Stein is nearby in Port Coquitlam, where he lives with his Argentinian mastiff. He plans to be involved in the community, and would love to be involved in promoting the 2020 B.C. Summer Games in Maple Ridge.

The guy who has been on medal podiums at international competition appreciates the way he can be put on a pedestal in his home town – like when Yennadon elementary changed the school moniker to his name for a day.

“They made me a hometown hero.”