Eyes on the prize: New Brunswick para-athlete sets big goals

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Eyes on the prize: New Brunswick para-athlete sets big goals

Para-athlete James Brace has big dreams, and he says they're getting closer to reality.

At age 33, his goal is to compete for Team Canada as a paralympian in his events — javelin, discus and shot put.

"I would hope to go until my body says no more but I also would love to represent Canada itself," Brace said.

Brace, who lives in Intervale, near Petitcodiac, just returned from the Desert Challenge Games in Arizona and is getting ready to compete in the Canadian Track and Field Championships.

In 2006, Brace was in an accident and lost the use of his legs.

"The first couple of months was very hard because I was a hockey player so it flipped my whole world upside down and I didn't really start sports until 2010, so four years later before I found something," he said.

Hit a plateau

Brace started out as wheelchair racer, but says he hit a plateau and was looking for something else. In 2014 he became a para-thrower.

"It gives me a purpose in life for sure," he said.

And it challenges him.

"The challenges are try to stay in shape get a lot of practice in, weather and trying to find competitions around the Maritimes." he said.

Brace trains at the University of Moncton with his coach Steve LeBlanc, the Director of High Performance for Athletics New Brunswick.

"He's good. He's a fun guy to work with because he comes to practice ready to do some work you know. We have fun when we're doing it but he comes ready to do some work." LeBlanc said.

"He's travelling in a good distance to come in here and train with me so he's not coming in here to mess around."

Demanding sports

LeBlanc says Brace's events are all demanding sports.

"Javelin is very technical. It's hard on the body but it's a technical event. Shot put is a bit more of a strength power event still technical but its a little more physical in some ways. Each one has it's own challenges." he said.

Leblanc says Brace's goal of one day representing his country is realistic.

"We're already kind of knocking on the door of that last year I think IPC rankings, which is the world rankings for para he would have fallen somewhere in the top 5 or 6 in the world in a couple of those events." LeBlanc said.

"It's a question of getting the right conditions and getting the right performance when you need it but he's definitely trying to be very consistent in getting those big numbers."

Gold medals

Brace's best distances include 21 meters in discus, 18 meters in javelin and 7 meters in shot put.

His favourite event is javelin, which he says "is the worst for your shoulder and elbow."

"I train two times a week with my personal coach, with weights one to two times a week and also have a hand cycle to keep my endurance up." he said.

Brace has won gold for wheelchair shot put and silver in the discus at the Nationals.

But he says the greatest reward has been sharing his sports with his 12-year-old son, Kaden.

"It's brought my son and I a lot closer because he comes to my practices and encourages me on competition days so its very touching sport and I'm glad the coaches allow me and my son to be able to spend the time together." Brace said.

The Canadian Track and Field Championships are being held in Ottawa from July 3-8.