'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
"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.
"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."
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?