Bracebridge’s Collin Cameron is looking to add to a trio of bronze medals he won at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, but he’s going to have to do it the hard way.
Speaking during a rare day off from training, Cameron says he expects to compete in seven cross country and biathlon events in eight days when the 2022 Paralympic Games begin in Beijing on March 4.
“It’s a lot of work…but I feel like I have unfinished business,” says Cameron. “I’d like to be a little higher on the podium and possibly win gold in the sprint. I’m also trying to keep grounded and I’m going to be happy with my results, regardless of what they are.”
The cross-country events range in distance from the one km sprint to an 18 km race. If that wasn’t enough, the biathlon events also include a shooting component, wherein athletes need to hit a certain number of targets or face time penalties.
At the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Cameron finished third in the 7.5 km and 15 km biathlon and again in the relay. His accomplishment is even more remarkable considering he only became involved in sit skiing in 2015.
To get into top form Cameron and the Canadian Nordic skiing team, which Cameron says is more like a family than a team, have been training at Apex Mountain in Penticton, BC, where the elevation (roughly 1,900 m) more closely mimics that of the Beijing course (1,700 m).
“It makes a huge difference competing at altitude,” says Cameron, who has a condition which limits the range of motion in his legs. “It’s a lot harder on your body and it’s a lot easier to hit a wall and burn out.”
Complicating matters was the fact that Cameron contracted Covid over the holidays, which left him bedridden for a number of days,
“It’s obviously wasn’t an ideal to take the time off but I’ve been training for the past four years so I feel like a couple of weeks isn’t going to make or break it,” he says.
Cameron says he’s always been physically active and had a competitive streak, stemming back to his days growing up in Bracebridge.
“There wasn’t really much of an opportunity growing up to compete in para-sports but I played a lot of other sports and did other activities,” says the former St. Dominic student. “Of course growing up in Muskoka you’re never very far from a lake or a river so I did a lot of swimming.”
Cameron says he and his brother Gary were always getting into some type of activity, and he feels that family support is a huge component behind his success at the elite level.
“I think my family saw this as the opportunity I was looking for while I was growing up – the chance to really to really take something, make it my own and thrive,” he says.
Cameron says his mother Denise McChesney and her co-workers at Leon’s in Bracebridge have been especially important in helping him feel the hometown support.
“With the amount of training that’s required it takes an entire community to support amateur athletes. That’s something I feel like I always had in Bracebridge,” says Cameron.
The 2022 Paralympic Winter Games run from March 4-13.
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