Jessica Lewis’ training partner Curtis Thom has been focused on the Rio Paralympics for the last four years and it could be his last shot at a medal.
Because the Mississauga wheelchair racer spent most of 2015 recovering from surgery, he’s not going to let the financial uncertainty surrounding the upcoming Games stop him from going.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced of a third round of budget cuts looming for the Paralympics, which are set to take place from Sept. 7-18.
On Friday, the International Paralympic Committee said Rio’s organizing committee hasn’t raised enough money to fund the Paralympics and cuts will be made to venues, the workforce at the Games, media centres and transport.
“I’m not really worrying about it,” said Thom, who at 30 years old will be attending his third Paralympics, having gone to the 2004 and 2012 Games.
“It’s just like all the other concerns people had about the Olympics. It’s not a big deal to me.”
Organizers have yet to pay $8 million in travel grants to athletes from poorer countries, and while the IPC said delayed grants will be paid, 10 countries may still struggle to get their athletes to Rio.
Part of the Paralympics are funded by specific ticket sales and sponsorship, which have been lacking because only 12 per cent of tickets having been sold as of Thursday.
Still, Thom feels it’s similar to other issues such as Zika, crime and water infestation in Rio, which he believes have been overblown by the media.
He’s set to depart for Rio Friday (Aug. 26) to participate in a pre-Paralympic camp before racing in the T54 400 and 4x400-metre relay events.
Following a fifth-place finish in the 4x400 four years ago in London, Thom believes the relay team has a good shot at contending for a medal.
“Going into this, we have a very strong relay team,” he said. “It’s been our team for the last three years, so we know everyone and we gel pretty good together.”
Thom will have family travelling to Rio too, with his father Ken going as a coach for Bermuda wheelchair racer Jessica Lewis, who’s competing in the T53 100, 400 and 800m events.
In 2006, the Thoms attended a coaching clinic in Bermuda, where they met Lewis and developed a close friendship.
Lewis, 23, has since come to Canada to study at Brock University while training with Ken on weekends during the school year. The 2015 Pan Am Games gold medalist and world championship bronze medalist now lives close to the Thoms in Meadowvale.
She was coached by Ken during the 2012 Paralympics as well and, while there were concerns about how the dynamics of Ken being at the Games as a parent of one athlete and coach of another would work, they were quickly put to rest once Curtis wished Lewis the best of luck before she was about to race in London.
“That’s the moment we knew it was going to work,” Ken said.
“Then we left it that way and there have been times where we’d get together because if he needed to talk to me, I was there. It worked okay and we’re going to go with the same approach this time.”