Wheelchair racer Curtis Thom has been racing for nearly two decades. He has competed in two Paralympic Games, holds the Canadian record in the T54 class 400m and has been named the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association’ s Athlete of the Year three times. He has competed internationally amongst the best racers in the world, but he still remembers how he started in wheelchair racing like it was yesterday.
At the young age of 10, Curtis recalls watching the 1996 Paralympic demo race of the 1500m wheelchair event and deciding to give it a try. At the time I was [participating in] sledge hockey and my parents found a chair for me to start training in,” he explains. Curtis’ father, Ken Thom, and his current coach, Bob Shrader, have been instrumental in his development as a racer and competitor. Their support inspires Curtis to give back to the sport that has given him so much, and he has done so with fellow racer Isaiah Cristophe.
Isaiah is also coached by Ken Thom and first began competing in the sport alongside Curtis with the Cruisers club. Isaiah credits Curtis for helping him get to where he is today. “Working with Curtis has helped me become faster. Just listening to the cadence of his push helps me to try and see if I can stay with his rhythm.” Though competitors on the track, the athletes share a unique bond that is more reminiscent of brotherly love. Constantly pushing one another to get better, Curtis explains that, “Watching [Isaiah] grow as a person and an athlete as he gets better every year is what I have enjoyed the most. We both feed off each other to push harder.”
Curtis’ tenacity and drive have been passed on to Isaiah who trains to follow in his friend and teammate’s footsteps. The two continue to train and improve themselves as athletes, while being ambassadors for the sport of Para-athletics. Isaiah offers straightforward advice to newcomers: “Train hard, listen to your coaches, ask questions, learn from other athletes and most importantly have fun!”
Curtis adds, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t be the best! You are only limited by what you set for yourself.” The future of wheelchair racing in Ontario looks bright with these two leading the way!