Maple Ridge-raised athlete heads to Rio

Maple Ridge-raised wheelchair athlete Tristan Smyth is training, in preparation for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio. - Special to The TIMES
Maple Ridge-raised wheelchair athlete Tristan Smyth is training, in preparation for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio.
— image credit: Special to The TIMES

Maple Ridge-raised wheelchair athlete Tristan Smyth is training away in Lake Country, in preparation for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio.

Smyth, 29, is one of 24 track-and-field athletes nominated to represent Canada at the Games in September.

He’ll be competing in the 1500 metre and 4x400 metre relay.

Smyth graduated from Maple Ridge Secondary. In 2011, he broke his back in a skateboarding accident, becoming an “incomplete paraplegic,” with some mobility.

Between then and now, Smyth told The TIMES he''s not quite sure when he realized Paralympian goals were in his reach.

"I don't quite know when," he said. "But it happened, it’s something I want, and moreover beyond that there’s a part of me that wants to become the best in world at what I do someday."

He noted "becoming a Paralympian is just a part" of that goal.

"What I like about the Paralympian part is that it becomes more than just your personal aspirations, its a chance to represent your country and be a part of that team," he continued.

So far, achievements for Smyth include becoming the first British Columbian to post three gold medals at the Western Canada Summer Games, which he won only eight months after his accident.

In the past, Smyth has also competed in the Canada Summer Games, winning gold in the 1,500 metre and silver in the 400 metre.

Off the track, he’s a three-time champion of the Vancouver Sun Run wheelchair division – this year finishing with a time of 24 minutes and seven seconds.

But the most memorable highlight for Smyth came last year, when he made the Pan American and World Championship Teams, which he described a "a pretty big deal."

And this year, as part of the Canadian men’s 4x400m relay team, Smyth and teammates established a new Canadian record at a meet in Quebec.

Lately, he said, training has included balancing "resting, eating, timing of food, before and after training, timing of sleep – it’s all part of the plan."

Described as a full time job, without the pay, Smyth has also been faced with challenges.

"This year, realizing how important mental health is was a huge one," he said, adding financial support "is always a big one too."

The costs of training and eating well add up, not to mention the specialized equipment, he continued.

"With how small the race scene is here in Canada, developing that experience to race with the best in the world requires a lot of travel, [straying] in the country to be able to train with my team mates, and [travelling] out of the country to race," he explained.

Looking ahead to September in Rio, Smyth hopes to "be in a position to do my best and remember to have fun."

Maple Ridge will also be represented in Rio by local swimmer Nathan Stein.

Stein is one of 22 athletes nominated for a spot on Team Canada.

Stein has a bone deficiency in one knee, a condition called osteochondritis dissecans, and he underwent several operations on the knee since he first broke it while playing football at age 11.

Locally, Stein was a Home Town Hero winner in 2011, lauded for his efforts at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London where he won silver in the 50-metre freestyle event.

Since the London Games, Stein performed impressively during last year’s Parapan American Games in Toronto, bringing home silver in the 100-metre butterfly and 4x100-metre freestyle relay, and earning two bronze medals in the 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle.

More recently, he holds the Canadian records in the 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle and butterfly.

Both athletes will competing in Rio from Sept. 8 to 18.

Check back with The TIMES for results post-competition.

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