Max Arsenault refused to let his wheelchair come between him and the water at the 2017 Canada Summer Games on Friday.
With a crowd of people cheering him on, the New Brunswick paraplegic athlete fulfilled his lifelong dream of competing in the 200-metre kayak race at the games in Winnipeg.
Arsenault, a 16-year-old from Rothesay, became a paraplegic about a year and a half ago, after a snow boarding accident at Poley Mountain just outside Sussex.
Friday’s race was his third time out on the water since the accident.
‘It really means everything to me.’– Max Arsenault
“I really feel at home out there,” said Arsenault, who started paddling at seven.
“After I had my first surgery and my parents were talking to me about how serious the injury was, I think I remember just looking at them and saying, ‘Well I’m still going to go for the Olympics for kayaking,'” he said while sharing his story after the race.
“That’s still a goal of mine and I hope I can achieve that.”
Arsenault said several people rallied together to gather special parts for his kayak on Thursday.
They also asked for special permission from each team competing, to allow him to participate in the race, he said.
“It was incredible to find out that I actually could do that,” he said. “It really means everything to me.”
Arsenault said he also used to play hockey and participated in a track and field shot put event last week, beating his personal best.
“Before I got hurt, I was the exact same way, I pretty much did every sport that I could,” he said.
“I’m still trying to track down any adaptive sport I can try out.”
Medals on the horizon
Only three days are left at the 2017 Canada Games, and there are still medals within reach of Team New Brunswick.
So far, the team has racked up 12 medals since the games first started on July 28.
Earlier this week, New Brunswick swimmers added four medals to the tally to start the second week of competition at the games.
Bruce MacFarlane, media liaison for the team, said swimmers are also competing Friday night.
“The last time New Brunswick won a medal in the pool dates back to 2001,” he said.
In golf, Fredericton’s Calvin Ross is in second place, only three shots behind the leader and is competing in Friday’s final round. Meanwhile, the men’s team is sitting in third place, five shots behind second place.
The women’s volleyball team also has a crucial semifinal game against Alberta. If New Brunswick wins, the team will head to a gold medal match on Saturday. If it loses, New Brunswick will compete in a bronze medal match.
Individual wrestling matches will also take place Friday, and a win for Team New Brunswick will take the team to Friday night’s medal round.
In girls wrestling, the team finished fifth on Thursday night.
“We always do good in wrestling,” MacFarlane said.
The women’s softball team will also play Quebec Friday afternoon.
In tennis, Team New Brunswick is sitting in fifth place, the highest the team has ever placed.
“They’ve always finished closed to the bottom,” he said. “We’ve seen such an improvement in our tennis.”
About 400 people are representing New Brunswick at the 17-day Canada Games, including athletes, coaches and managers.
The games run until Sunday.