A pair of Kings County natives have taken the next step in their careers as Paralympic athletes.
Ben Brown of Weston, a wheelchair racer, and David Bambrick of Wolfville, a shot put and discus thrower, recently received their Athletics Canada national development cards.
This means they are eligible for federal development funding on a regular basis.
“I’m surprised. I was expecting to be carded, but not until next year, or maybe even 2015,” he said. “I was ecstatic. It’s a huge deal.”
Though the additional funding will help, Brown noted he would still need to fundraise for his equipment and competition costs. He usually has to travel out of province to compete, as there are only three or four competitive wheelchair racers in the Maritimes.
Now that he is officially part of the development team for para athletes, Brown’s goal is to maintain his card, which is renewable annually, “and improve my results.”
He is off to Warm Springs, GA from Jan. 2-12 for training, and is only back a few days when he will compete at an Athletics Nova Scotia indoor meet.
While in Georgia, Brown will “get to compete with and against the top athletes in Canada” in his sport, including the current number-one wheelchair racer in the country. “My goal will be trying to keep up with the top racers, and learn from them,” he said.
Brown is looking forward to a big year in 2014, including the Desert Classic meet in Arizona in May. After a few days at home, he will be off to Switzerland.
“My card is good for a year at a time, and I want to keep it as long as I can,” he said.
His long-term goal is to get a university degree in kinesiology and become a strength and conditioning trainer.
“My training is going really well. My indoor times are close to my outdoor times,” Brown said. “I’ve taken three seconds off my time in the 800, and in the 400, I’m now pushing faster than I was at the Canada Games.”
He credits “changing some things around with my strength training” for his improved results.
Meanwhile Bambrick spent the first two weeks in December training at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. He termed being carded “an awesome thing. It’s the dream of every athlete to be on Team Canada, in whatever sport,” he said.
Bambrick looks for every chance he can get for improvement through elite training and competition, prompting him to take the opportunity to train in Lethbridge when it was offered.
The opportunity came through his Canada Games coach, Paul Mailman, whose son Peter attends Lethbridge and trains under internationally-recognized coach Wayne Stankey.
“It was a great opportunity,” Bambrick said, adding that he got to train with other elite athletes, and be coached by elite coaches.
“It really opened my eyes,” he said, to the level of competition there is out there, “and to different workout programs” he can use.
As for the national carding, the additional funding - and the added exposure - will be welcome, though as with Brown, it doesn’t cover equipment and travel costs.
“This is part of my life now, and it’s going to be my life for the nest three years,” he said. “Athletics Canada wants its athletes to broaden their scope,” which will mean more national and even international competitions.
During 2014, he is looking at meets in Florida in early spring, Brazil in May, Paris in July and London, and England in August.
“I’ll still have to look at fundraising options,” he said.
“The Pan-Am Games will be in Toronto in 2015. My goal is to compete there, and my ultimate goal is the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.”
Bambrick has been talking with Steve Wohlmuth, his coach with Launchers Athletics, Ueli Albert, national Paralympic athletics coach.
“I’ll be working with them, and with my personal trainers,” to prepare for these upcoming challenges.
“I get all kinds of support and encouragement from my coaches, my family and friends, and Acadia (where he works), which is really accommodating at giving me time off work to travel.”
Three or four years ago, Bambrick didn’t know what a shot putter was, but from those humble beginnings, he has worked and trained hard. Now he’s throwing 11.35 metres in shot put and 31.25 metres in discus, his secondary event.