Nova Scotia

Wheelchair racer Ben Brown looking for big results in 2018

The 30-year-old from the Annapolis Valley is training for the upcoming five kilometre race at the Blue Nose Marathon, one of several races he will have in what will be an incredibly busy stretch with eight races in six weeks.

Nova Scotian's relentless focus has made him one of the best wheelchair racers in Canada

Ben Brown is using the Blue Nose Marathon as a chance to tune up his wheelchair racing skills before he tackles a slew of other races this year. (Submitted photo)

Twelve years after the accident that paralyzed him from the chest down, there is no denying the work ethic of Nova Scotian para-athlete Ben Brown.

The 30-year-old from the Annapolis Valley is training for the upcoming five-kilometre race at the Blue Nose Marathon, part of an incredibly busy stretch with eight races in six weeks.

"I'll be racing in Dartmouth and in Moncton before the Blue Nose, which I'll be using as a tuneup, because the following day after that I fly to Switzerland," Brown told CBC News.

"I'll be there for two weeks to race against the world's best and that's where I'm looking to hit the times to put me in the top eight or top 12 in the world," he said, also mentioning a high-level competition in Arizona.

'There's no point in complaining'

To get to be among the top wheelchair racers in the world has been a long journey, Brown recounted as he took a break from a training session at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

It started on August 20, 2006, when his life changed forever.

I think not making Paralympics and world championships in 2017 and 2015 was more frustrating than getting paralyzed.- Ben Brown

Just a few weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Brown suffered a spinal cord injury while training for motocross, an off-road motorcycle race where competitors travel around an uneven dirt course at high speed.

Brown ended up paralyzed from the chest down, but it didn't take away his spirit and determination.

"I have a philosophy that life throws you curveballs and you either strike out looking or you try and swing and hope for the home run," said Brown, who is also autistic.

"I just tell people it is what it is and there's nothing I can do about it, so there's no point in complaining."

As devastating as his injury was, Brown knew he was still a competitor and an athlete.

He took up wheelchair basketball, dabbled in sledge hockey and became Canada's first paraplegic to race motocross.

But when he took up wheelchair racing, he knew that was the sport where he could excel.

Brown is one of the best wheelchair racers in Canada. At the 2017 Canada Summer Games he won three silver medals. (Submitted photo)

He narrowly missed out on making Canada's Paralympic team in 2016 in Brazil.

"I think not making Paralympics and world championships in 2017 and 2015 was more frustrating than getting paralyzed," said Brown.

"I know that kind of sounds crazy but that's just my mindset, I just want to be the best racer I can be."

Brown has become one of the best wheelchair racers in Canada.

At the 2017 Canada Summer Games he won three silver medals, in the 200-metre, 400-metre and 800-metre races.

Training 'going really, really well'

This will be Brown's first full racing season with a new chair.

He said the new equipment is state of the art and he now has the same tools as other top international racers.

"Training so far this year is going really, really well," said Brown, "Last week I started hitting personal bests."

Brown, who lives in Cambridge, N.S., and splits his training between the Annapolis Valley and Halifax, trains six days a week on the track and in the weight room, all while attending Nova Scotia Community College in Kentville.

His coach says commitment has never been an issue.

"At times I almost have to take his focus down a little bit, just to keep that balance," said Ueli Albert, Brown's coach for the last 10 years. "But at the high performance level you really need to be extremely focused on what needs to be done, to get to the level he wants to get to."

Brown is hoping he can continue to improve his times this summer. His ultimate goal: to represent Canada at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

About the Author

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.