Written by David Grossman
There is nothing like a dream.
For some, when that cherished marvel actually becomes a reality, there is an emotional state of affection that can be hard to describe.
Maxime Brinck-Croteau, a resident of Markham, knows that feeling.
Since he was a youngster, brandishing those toy plastic swords and finally giving in to his parents desire to get him active in a meaningful physical fitness program, Brinck-Croteau pondered the idea of what it would be like to compete against the best.
One-by one, Brinck-Croteau ruled out baseball, judo, swimming and soccer before settling on fencing.
“I was not the fittest kid and my parents wanted to get involved – so I remember playing with a plastic sword,” he said. “I didn’t know that it was a sport, just that my parents started taking me places to play – swords. Things got real – with a mask vest, or what I call armour, and a real sword.”
Now, the top male Épée fencer in Canada – and maneuvering the heaviest, and largest, of the various weapons used in sport fencing – Brinck-Croteau can talk with deep pride that his dream came true.
Along with competing in the Grand Prix, Pan Am Games and World championships, his journey through the world of competitive fencing has now reached the pinnacle – the Olympics. Brinck-Croteau did get that huge personal accomplishment with his debut at the 2016 Games in Brazil – but exiting early, after a crushing loss, wasn’t in his plan.
While things could have gone sour quickly, Brinck-Croteau instead maintained his deep affection and passion for the sport and a thirst for success. But, standing in the way, may be another challenge – and his body is, again, sending him a message.
“Fencing is a sport that can play very hard on the body – regardless of how physically fit you can be,” he said. “I have accepted the fact that, for the rest of my life, I will always have a hip problem and pain. There was a time, recently, that I couldn’t put on a pair of socks.”
With a genetically beat up left hip, his knees are aching and Brinck-Croteau, a former Canadian Fencing Federation’s Senior Male Athlete of the Year, is also dealing with an elbow problem.
“Life is a battle, adjustments will have to be made and I will find a way to deal with challenges,” he said. “As for chasing medals, there are personal goals and expectations. One thing is for certain, I hope to be competing for Canada at the next Olympics in Japan.”
That may be a few years off and Brinck-Croteau knows his priority is a full body check-up along with approval from his doctor to move on. He’s also cognizant that he hasn’t been able to sit with his legs crossed for the past 10 years – and still got to be one of the top fencers on the planet.
Not everything comes easy and Brinck-Croteau, recuperating from injury setbacks combined with high intensity training for a sport that takes place in a defined area, is in for a different kind of duel.
“I enjoy playing with swords and I’m determined to take this is as far as I can,” said the 30-year old former two-time Canada Cup champion, who closes out 2016 with a world ranking of No. 28. “I know the time will come when I have to retire as an athlete – but then I just might devote full attention to coaching the sport.”
Well respected, and a computer engineers by education standards, his world is different now after becoming a household name in the sport in Canada. He’s also the Technical Director for the Ontario Fencing Association, enjoys teaching and coaching youngsters and is a Marketing Associate for the Markham-based Vango Toronto Fencing Centre
Prior to the Olympics in Rio, he was in China for four years and taught fencing while students reciprocated by helping him learn Mandarin.
“I just love (fencing) and it has become contagious – a life dream that I am not about to end right now,” he said.