Sunday, April 28 saw the finals of the junior para hockey tournament at the Howie-Morenz Arena, featuring teams from Quebec and Ontario. The boisterous crowd cheered on the young players with great enthusiasm. Paralympic Nordic skier Jimmy Pelletier was on hand to watch the games and present the medals.

 

It all starts here

Pelletier became paraplegic in 1996, at the age of 19, after a car accident. Barely eight months later, following a period of rehabilitation, he took part in his first Défi Sportif AlterGo in 1997, in track and field. He had been introduced to para-athletics by Pierre Pomerleau, who was in charge of sports activities for people with physical disabilities at the Institut de réadaptation en déficience physique de Québec (IRDPQ), and was supported in his journey by wheelchair sprinter Dean Bergeron.

For Jimmy, who had always been highly involved in sports and had played hockey and baseball before his accident, and who was experiencing a major life change, discovering adaptive sport was a turning point. “[My first Défi Sportif AlterGo] was a wonderful experience, and it ended up launching me toward a new career. […] I started doing a lot of racing, which allowed me to travel all over the world.”

Later on, he took up para-Nordic skiing and competed at the Paralympic Games in Turin in 2006. “That was an incredible experience. Just being there, among the best in the world, is a victory in itself.”

He then took up para-cycling and joined the national team. Meanwhile, year after year, he continued to take part in the Défi Sportif AlterGo.

 

Thriving on challenge

Although he has retired from Nordic skiing and the national para-cycling team, Pelletier has continued to take on impressive challenges and push his limits. “Every event I take part in allows me to accumulate tools, and when I’m faced with a challenge, I use those to tools to continue moving forward.”

In 2018, Pelletier became the second person in the world to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on an adapted mountain bike. And in 2019, he cycled across Canada on a hand bike. He completed the journey of over 7,000 km, from Vancouver to Halifax, with 7 people, including his wife Manon, who accompanies him on all his adventures.

His next project? Jimmy and his partner are preparing to cycle around the world on their own. This time, their goal is to cover 40,000 km and cycle through 38 countries in 2 years.

“What we want to do is ride for the inclusion of people in wheelchairs, as well as show everyone that in life, anything is possible. […] It will be a major challenge, but we’ll take it one step at a time and enjoy every moment.”

 

Opportunities to give back

Yes, Jimmy Pelletier thrives on challenge, but he also takes on those challenges as a way to give back. He raises funds for organizations that provide support to people with functional limitations.

One of those organizations is Adaptavie, through which he will contribute to the building of a new adapted complex in Quebec City, which will serve the entire eastern part of the province. He is also keen to contribute to the purchase of adapted equipment—which is often expensive—that enables people with functional limitations to take part in sports.

Pelletier also founded the Randonnée Jimmy Pelletier, an annual event that brings together 120 cyclists and 40 volunteers who, over a period of 4 days, cycle 515 km on the roads of Quebec to raise funds for those same organizations. The 8th Randonnée Jimmy Pelletier will take place from June 27 to 30, 2024.

 

Back to where it all began

At the Howie-Morenz Arena on Sunday, Jimmy said he was honoured to be attending the Défi Sportif AlterGo to watch the youngsters play para hockey and to hand out their medals. “It’s wonderful. […] As time goes on, there are more and more young people, which is extraordinary, because they’ll slowly get older and keep gaining experience.”

His advice to young athletes is to take it one step at a time, one day at a time. “Of course, at first, it takes a lot of effort and adaptation. […] Inside of us, we all possess the tools we need to get there. It just takes perseverance. With that, they’ll have the chance to go even further.”

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