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Lifetime of chasing dreams

Paralympian contemplates leaving wheelchair racing

Posted: 05/13/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 05/13/2013 6:45 AM | Updates

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Colin Mathieson, with his wife, Renée Blunderfield-Mathieson, won in competition again -- this time it was Dancing with Celebrities.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Colin Mathieson, with his wife, Renée Blunderfield-Mathieson, won in competition again -- this time it was Dancing with Celebrities. Photo Store

He's chased his racing dream for 20 years, but it's real life that's catching up with Colin Mathieson.

The four-time Paralympian wheelchair racer is contemplating life outside the lane.

"I haven't decided exactly what the exit date is," said Mathieson, who married Ren©e Blunderfield-Mathieson on Dec. 31, 2011, and is close to earning his degree in social work.

It will be the third straight year attending a world event for Mathieson as he prepares for the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships July 19-28 in Lyon, France.

"Being a Paralympian was easy when that's all I had to do," laughed Mathieson, 34. "I'm not racing as much as I was when I was younger, and instead focusing on a couple of really big races and try to peak for those ones. I've got the Worlds this year and I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen after that."

'I've invested 20 years of my life in chasing this dream of being an athlete and representing my country and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world'

-- Colin Mathieson

Mathieson took a break from serious training on Saturday evening to compete in -- and win -- the annual Dancing With Celebrities charity fundraiser in Winnipeg, beating out dancers such as comedian Big Daddy Tazz, Global TV news co-host Derek Taylor and former Blue Bomber Wade Miller. Judges were Free Press columnist Doug Speirs, radio personality Ace Burpee, and Arthur Murray Dance Studio owner Vlad Cascaval.

"Colin didn't win because he's in a wheelchair, he won because he was the best dancer. He was fabulous," said Speirs.

Dancing aside, the wheelchair-racing treadmill taking up space in Mathieson's apartment's living room is symbolic of how much of his life has been occupied by training and competing as an elite athlete.

Juggling athletics, studies and family life as an elite athlete, student and husband, Mathieson is ready to get off the treadmill.

"I'm going to have to make some decisions based on what I need for my school and potential work. That will naturally decide the sports side," he said, noting his federal funding model is directly tied to his performances at major events. "If I do well, then that would buy me another year to continue training at this level."

'Being a Paralympian was easy when that's all I had to do. I'm not racing as much as I was when I was younger and instead focusing on a couple of really big races and try to peak for those ones'

Though he and his wife make their home in Winnipeg, Mathieson has only been back home for a few weeks. His 34th birthday on April 1 was spent training in Florida, as he has done every year since 1996.

"That usually includes two workouts on my birthday as a birthday present, maybe a little crying and vomit," he said laughing. "Not most people's ideal birthday."

In January, he moved back to Winnipeg from Sherbrooke, Que., where he had lived since 2007. He needed to be in Sherbrooke so he could train with other top wheelchair racers. Now, he needs to be in Winnipeg where he and his wife want to one day buy a house and have a family.

"We're making it work and she's absolutely fantastic for humouring me," he said, noting their honeymoon in January 2012 was shortened because he had a competition in Australia.

Mathieson, who was born with spina bifida, has been involved in wheelchair sports since age five and a member of Canada's national track and field team since 1995.

One of Canada's most prolific wheelchair athletes, he has won 20 Canadian championship titles. At London in 2012, his fourth Paralympics, he placed 16th in the 100-metre and the 400-metre races and was a member of the men's 4x400-metre relay team, which placed fifth. While London "didn't go the way I wanted," he said he's not sure if the 2016 Paralympics is in the cards.

Preparing for the Paralympics has become increasingly demanding. Now there are three world championships in a four-year Paralympic cycle when there used to be one.

"The life of an amateur athlete reminds me of the Dragon's Den (television show about business entrepreneurs) and you hear these people, they have basically invested every cent that they have into this idea. I can understand that," he said.

"I've invested 20 years of my life in chasing this dream of being an athlete and representing my country and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but it's definitely not been easy. It's been kind of at the expense of what I would call a real life. Until now."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 B1

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Updated on Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:45 AM CDT: replaces photo

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