When Rio Paralympian Nathan Clement retired from swimming in 2018, he thought that he was done with competitive sports. But five years later, he’s earned his first World Championships title–but in cycling, not swimming.
On August 9, the 28-year-old Canadian won the men’s T1 (tricyclist) time trial, in Dumfries, Scotland, earning the rainbow jersey that denotes him as a World Champion. He won the 10.8km race in a time of 18:50.53, seven seconds ahead of silver medalist Chen Jianxin. Clement gets to wear the rainbow bands for the next year, until the 2024 Championships kick off next September.
Clement made his first Canadian national team in 2014 at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships. In Rio, Clement finished seventh in the 50 fly, setting a new Canadian record, and 18th in the 50 freestyle.
Two years after retiring, Clement did a 1,000km bike ride across British Columbia, Canada. That ride reignited his competitive spirit again. “As I was going through the ride and the journey, some competitive fires slowly started to emerge in me,” Clement told CBC Sports before the 2023 World Championships.
“I kind of sat with that for a few weeks or a month, like do I really want to put my body through that high-performance lifestyle again? The resounding answer was yes.”
Clement made his para cycling debut in 2022. He almost instantly found himself on the podium–a rare feat in cycling. He won silver in both the time trial and road race at his international debut in Quebec City on the World Cup circuit. At 2022 Worlds, he won double silver again in the same events.
And now, just a year later, he’s already struck gold. He also added another medal to his Worlds haul by winning bronze in the road race.
However, Clement has another long-term goal in mind. He wants to compete at Paris 2024. “It’s everything I think of; it’s a dream,” Clement told CBC Sports.
“When I am training on the bike, it’s like OK, be that hungry kid that you were, be that person that is trying to make the Games for the first time, to get that fire burning within.”