A paraplegic athlete from Smithers has started a campaign to help him get to one of the most prestigious sporting competitions in the world: the Paralympic Games.
Jonathan Dieleman, a T4 paraplegic athlete who grew up in Smithers, started an online campaign last week with the goal of raising $5,000 to purchase a much-needed racing wheelchair.
“I’m trying to get a new racing wheelchair for doing the triathlon part and they’re really expensive and I didn’t quite have the savings here to do it,” said Dieleman.
Last year he managed to purchase a used racing hand cycle and is currently renting a racing wheelchair from the B.C. Wheelchair Sports Association.
But a customized racing wheelchair will allow him to be more competitive.
Dieleman was seriously injured in a motocross accident in 2010. Prior to the accident, he had been training to get into motocross racing.
Since then, he has transferred his competitive drive from motocross racing to paratriathlons.
And the 29-year-old has proven his commitment to the sport.
Dieleman moved to Vancouver earlier this year to begin training for a series of sporting events in the Lower Mainland.
He has even enlisted the help of paralympian Scott Patterson to help him train.
“I knew a mutual friend of ours who told me to get in contact with Scott and he said ‘yep, let’s go swimming’,” said Dieleman.
“It’s pretty cool that I’ve got some pretty high-calibre training competition I guess you could call it.”
Not only does he train at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre five to six days a week, but he rides his hand cycle and racing wheelchair twice a week each as well.
“I’m definitely getting lots of training in,” he said.
Before competing in the paratriathlon later this year, he will compete in a handful of swimming competitions as well.
In a few weeks, Dieleman will travel east for the selection trials to qualify for the Parapan Am Games in Toronto this summer.
He has high goals for that as well.
“I’m actually working on beating a national record right now,” he said. “I’ve been really close to it in practice lately . . .
The national record that I’m trying to break is just over a minute even. My fast stroke is the 50-metre breast stroke and I’ve been swimming that in 600th of a second faster than the national record.”
So far, the campaign has raised just over $1,200 in three days.
Dieleman is optimistic that training for the paratriathlon and participating in swimming competitions will give him a decent shot at making it to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio or the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“My thing is I hate being in a wheelchair and I have a goal to do everything that I can to make it so that I can walk again,” he said.
“Staying in shape helps with it and I have this drive where I’m all or nothing. So I’m going to try and be the best athlete that I can.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/noi8z4.