Greg Stewart’s dream to compete on the world’s biggest stage has a heartbeat.
The 2020 Paralympic Summer Games have been rescheduled to take place this year from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 in Tokyo, and most signs suggest they will survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In my head, it’s happening,” said Stewart, the 7-foot-2, 335-pound shot putter from Kamloops. “The IOC [International Olympic Committee] and Tokyo saying they will offer vaccinations to athletes is really promising.”
Stewart’s mission since picking up the sport in 2017 has been to reach the Paralympics.
“My goal from Day 1 has not been to win a medal, but to go out there and enjoy the biggest sporting event in the world,” Stewart told KTW last March. “That’s really all that matters to me. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. At this moment, that point is not happening.”
Training over this past year has taken place with pervasive feelings of uncertainty and, at times, doubt the Games will take place.
“It’s been challenging, no question,” Stewart said. “Things have gotten a little bit better, but it’s tough to plan. It’s tough to make decisions for the future when you don’t know what the future looks like.”
Stewart, who was born with nothing below his left elbow, won silver in the men’s F46 division at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, throwing 16.30 metres to establish a Canadian record and dismantle his own personal best.
Important to keep in mind: the big fella moved the implement 13.08m at his first International Paralympic Committee-sanctioned event in 2017 — his growth over two years was phenomenal.
The waxing of the 2020 Paralympics would have been a devastating blow, perhaps with potential to make 34-year-old Stewart think twice about continuing with the sport.
“When October and November hit, it was a challenging time,” said Stewart, a former star forward for the TRU WolfPack men’s basketball team. “I’m starting life beyond sport. What am I training for? I’m starting to look at a career, too. Where am I going to go now?”
It appears he will be going to punt Athletics Goal No. 1 off the bucket list.
And the postponement may end up working to Stewart’s advantage.
A severe back spasm was projected to stifle his training regimen in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, an injury that could have hurt his chances of reaching the top of the podium.
Lingering back pain remains, but Stewart feels fit and healthy.
His path to gold likely runs through his friend and rival from San Diego, Josh Cinnamo, whose world-record-setting effort of 16.8m was good for first place at the 2019 worlds in Dubai.
“I still try to practise the mindfulness of focusing on day-to-day routine versus the end goal,” Stewart said.
“But yeah, I’m getting pretty excited. We’re like six months out. It’s getting close.”