Brian Hill 

Image of Brian HillBrian Hill of Duncan, BC, has been a competitive swimmer since the age of nine. At 25, he now has a distinguished record as an athlete, having won numerous medals at international competitions in his career. This September, Hill was one of 143 athletes on the Canadian Paralympic team in Beijing, and one of 28 athletes on the team with a connection to CNIB.

An Equal Level

Born with a genetic retinal disease that results in only 10 per cent vision, Hill used many of the services offered by CNIB during his childhood. But today he feels that CNIB’s support was even more valuable for his parents when he was young. “They were able speak to someone about visual impairments and learn what resources were available for both me and the family,” he says.

Hill began swimming as a young child and enjoyed it so much that his parents dug a hole in their backyard and filled it with water, creating a 17-metre pool for him to practice in. “It was the first sport where I was able to train and compete with other kids at an equal level,” he says. “There were not a lot of obstacles.”

While growing up, Hill competed nationally and internationally. In addition to earning three medals at the Paralympic games (in Sydney and Athens in 2000 and 2004 respectively), he has been successful at many other international competitions. At the ParaPanAmerican Games in Rio in 2007, he earned two silver and three gold medals, medaling in every race he took part in. He also broke the ParaPanAmerican Games’ record in the men’s 100m butterfly – one of several records he has broken. But one of his fondest memories was breaking his first world record in the 100m backstroke in 1999.

“It was a great accomplishment,” he says proudly.

Beijing 2008

For Hill, each of his Paralympic appearances has been unique. “The Sydney games were special because it was my first Paralympic games and everything. The atmosphere, crowds and facilities were amazing.” The games in Athens provided an entirely different experience. “I was really able to feel the history of the Olympics.”

Preparing for the 2008 games in Beijing was a physically demanding task. During his last major training push, Hill estimates he swam about 120 kilometres over a two week period. “I completed about eight to nine workouts a week and spent around 18 to 20 hours per week in the pool,” he says. In the final weeks before leaving for Beijing, he focused on rest and mental preparation.

Although Hill did not medal at Beijing, he was among the top five in the world in both the 100m butterfly and backstroke – pretty amazing by most standards. He can also savour the fact that he competed at one of the most-watched Olympic and Paralympic games in recent history.

According to Hill there was something special about his third time at the games. “The excitement leading up to Beijing was more than the last couple of games,” he says. “Just being able to compete at my third games was amazing.”

Help Us Make a Difference

From time to time, we reach out to Canadians for donations to ensure that CNIB is on hand for individuals who are searching for the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life while living with vision loss. Please give generously.