Canada's Ultimate Challenge

'Anything's possible.' Amputee firefighter battles to keep Team Red in the game

In last place and with coach Donovan Bailey on the sidelines, they are eliminated but not defeated

In last place and with coach Donovan Bailey on the sidelines, they are eliminated but not defeated

Chris wearing a red t-shirt is smiling, Chris stands over the Canada's Ultimate Challenge podium talking to coach Donovan who is on an iPad. Franz Wellington is holding the iPad while Skylar LeBlanc and Lori Campbell look on.
Amputee athlete Chris Cederstrand, Chris going over strategy with Coach Donovan who is online with Team Red members. (Insight Productions/CBC)

"I'm a very, very competitive person," says athlete and hockey player Chris Cederstrand, "and that's helped me accomplish a lot of things in life."

In 2004, Chris had a workplace accident that changed his life when his right leg was amputated above the knee. "That scar should remind you of where you've been. It shouldn't dictate where you go," he says, "I realized that the only limitations that were out there were the limitations I was putting on myself."

Chris got right back into sports and played on Team Canada's sledge hockey team for eight years. And he realized his dream of becoming North America's first above-the-knee amputee firefighter. 

"I can go out here as an above-the-knee amputee and compete with essentially all able-bodied athletes," said Chris, who was selected to compete on Canada's Ultimate Challenge. He joined Team Red, coached by track and field star Donovan Bailey.

When Donovan contracted COVID after Episode 4, Chris faced another challenge: how to lead the team out of last place in the game. 

Team Red faced some big challenges in the Thousand Islands. Teammate Lori Campbell ran into trouble completing the Ship to Shore swim challenge. Already dealing with an injury, Lori hit a wall at the halfway point.

"I just thought about my ancestors, about all that they've gone through so thought I could be here," said Lori, who completed the challenge with support from Team Blue's coach, Waneek Horn-Miller, a water polo Olympian, who dove in to swim back with her.

In the tandem kayak challenge, Chris and teammate Skylar Le Blanc ran into some technical difficulties with a broken rudder pedal. And then there was an unexpected plunge into the St. Lawrence River.

Watch the action on CBC Sports Reacts.

Without a Paddle: Chris on CBC Sports Reacts

5 days ago
Duration 8:56
In Donovan's absence Chris C. takes on more of a coaching role, but when he and Skylar take on the tandem kayak, everything seems to go wrong.

"I'm looking at Skylar and I'm like, you got to take my leg," Chris told CBC Sports, "and I don't think that's ever something he ever expected to hear in his life." They completed the course but placed last — again. 

They needed to win the next challenge to stay in the game. "Our backs are absolutely against the wall," said Chris.

"The one thing I learned from Coach Donovan is that you need to find that common ground with everybody," as the team prepared to build a self-supporting DaVinci bridge.

Despite having no team members with construction experience, Team Red pulled it together with a solid second-place finish — but it wasn't enough to save them from elimination.

"Coach Donovan would be incredibly proud of the way that we performed in this because it was 100% teamwork," says Chris. "We left it all out there and I'm just incredibly proud of Team Red."

"I learned that I'm going to be able to carry forward. And as far as being the only adaptive athlete, I learned that there weren't a lot of limitations to what I could do."

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