If anyone knows what it means to have drive and stamina, it’s Fredericton’s Louis Fortin.
He’s been competing in cross country skiing since 2010, despite losing an arm to bone cancer at age 14. He won two silver medals at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, had two top 10 finishes in the World Cup Circuit in 2013, was a Sochi Paralympian in 2014 and won two gold medals and a silver at the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Now, he’s planning to represent Canada at the 2018 Paralympic Games in Korea.
We caught up with Fortin this week while he was visiting the country to chat about his journey.
What are you doing in Korea right now?
I am in Korea to compete in a Para cross country ski World Cup. I will be doing three races: a 20 km, sprint and a 10 km (Saturday, Monday and Wednesday). These races are very important because they are selection races for the 2018 paralympic Canadian Team. Since the Paralympics will be here in Pyeongchang, these races are also test events for next year, so they are even more important for learning about race courses and snow conditions in this area. In the end, my results here will determine if I have a chance to make the team or not. The actual team will only be selected after the last selection race to happens in December 2017 in Canmore, Alberta.
After this, what’s your next step to get to the 2018 Paralympics?
If I get positive results and I am on the pathway for the team, then the next step is to maintain and improve my ranking until the final selection. Since the goal will be to perform as best as possible at the Paralympics, a few summer and fall training camps are already planned in Europe and out West. Also, to have a full-time focus on training starting in May to be in the best possible shape. That means training six times a week, two times a day. It is a full-time job.
What’s your biggest challenge right now in terms of getting to the 2018 games?
Since most days are training days, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for a job and most employers want nine to five, five days a week. Also, I’m not on the permanent national team, so I’m not funded by Sport Canada and just a few expenses are supported by Cross Country Canada. So each day is a choice between finding the financial means to buy groceries, pay the rent and all the training and competing expenses. I have managed so far. Two years ago I was full-time teacher and training just part-time then I decided to train full-time by using my savings supplemented by doing motivational talks in schools and businesses. But that is not enough and the time spent to chase for a contract is taking time away from focused training.
We understand you’ve been fundraising as well to help cover the costs? How can New Brunswickers help you out?
I have been running a funding campaign for the past couple months trying to raise the funds to help me train full-time with no stress about financial issues. My goal is $75,000. I have received a positive response from individuals through crowdfunding and also through an aeroplan campaign to pay for my trip to Korea where I am right now. At the same time, I am [asking] New Brunswick businesses to partner as sponsors of my adventure but also for supporting the work that I do with schools to promote a healthy lifestyle, positive thinking and building a resilient and confident self to face challenges.