Ben Brown’s fundraiser for new wheelchair built for speed pays off

Kathryn Brewster
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Coldbrook resident Ben Brown is no stranger to hard work. The wheelchair athlete spent his winter in and out of training camps, attending races and working out, all in the hopes of making it to the Paralympic Games in Brazil.

As part of his efforts to improve, Brown recently obtained a new racing wheelchair from Eagle Sports Chairs. Fitted for the chair while training in Georgia, he picked it up two months later in March, when he made his way to Calais, Maine.

The new chair is flashy in neon green, allowing for better visibility when training on the road. Aside from fitting Brown more soundly, it also changes how he sits in it – his body is now flatter, allowing him to push more fluidly and move more quickly. With the chair ringing in at almost $6,000 – about as much as half of his annual funding – Brown required a great deal of fundraising in order to obtain it. It was a necessary investment, he says.

“The chair I previously had I was way too skinny for. It was becoming a hindrance to my progress,” Brown said. “If you don’t have the best equipment fitting-wise, then you’re not going to get ahead – in fact, you’re going to struggle the whole time.”

A fundraising dinner and auction that sold out with 300 attendees was held in January. Bobby Best, who was involved in the organizing of the event, said he was very impressed by the amount of training that Brown puts in, and describes the athlete as one of the hardest-working individuals in the area.

Although his season doesn’t start until May, Brown has been hard at work with six days of training each week, some in the Annapolis Valley and some at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax. He’s also been doing a fair amount of travelling, with training camps in Georgia and Florida. The track season, which will kick off in Dartmouth, concludes in mid-July or August, with read race season running from August to October.

And after that?

“We’ll see how it goes. I might sign up for the Chicago marathon,” Brown laughs. “The goal for that is just to survive.”

Training consists of a medley of time in the gym and time on the street or track. Brown is undeterred by weather that might prompt others to stay inside.

“I haven’t seen anyone who’s as dedicated as Ben is,” says Brown’s coach, Ueli Albert. “If he keeps on doing what he’s doing, he’ll go a long way.”

Albert has been training wheelchair racers for eight years now, and says that in the five years he has been working with Brown, the athlete has only missed three or four workouts.

By the end of the season, Brown hopes to hit 33 kilometres per hour in terms of speed. Overall, he aims to finish in the top 20 or even top 15 in the world, which he says will help with more funding, more opportunities and put him in good shape for his goal of competing in the 2016 Paralympics. To qualify, Brown thinks he’ll need to be ranked in the top 10 going into 2016.

“As long as I keep improving at the rate I’m improving, it’s a very realistic goal,” he said.

One of the highlights of his upcoming season is a trip to Switzerland. His first trip overseas, Brown will spend three days racing over two weeks, competing against some of the best wheelchair racers in the world. The other 11 days of the trip aren’t just vacationing, though – Brown will be hard into training while he’s there.

“We might do some sightseeing when we’re in Switzerland, but realistically, I’m there for one reason and one reason only: to compete and do my very best,” Brown says. “At the end of the day, yeah I’d like to go and check out some sporting events, but realistically, I’m there to do my job.”

Organizations: Canada Games Centre

Geographic location: Georgia, Coldbrook, Brazil Calais, Maine Annapolis Valley Halifax Florida Dartmouth Switzerland Chicago

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