Greg Stewart was so focused on being in the moment when he threw a Paralympics record 16.75-metre heave to win gold for Canada in men's F46 shot put in Tokyo on Aug. 31 that he can’t really remember the feat.
That’s what he told a group of about 80 supporters from his hometown who welcomed him back to town this past week in a ceremony held by PacificSport BC honouring Kamloops’ Olympians and Paralympians — local coaches, athletes and medical professionals who have taken part in the Games over the years. Stewart, his coach and former Olympian Dylan Armstrong and Dr. Bruce Davidson were honoured in person at the Sept. 8 event, which also recognized four others.
Stewart flew from Japan to Canada on Sept. 3 and arrived at Vancouver International Airport to a group of family members who travelled to the Coast to surprise him.
“For me to see the family there, it was pretty tear-jerking,” Stewart said.
The moment was long overdue as the COVID-19 pandemic led to fans being barred from the Tokyo Games, leaving the 7-foot-2 athlete to make the historic throw in front of an empty stadium.
“It was crazy. All the seats were different colours, so when you walked in there, it actually felt like something was going on,” he said.
With the gold medal around his neck, shimmering in the sun at the Tournament Capital Centre’s lower field throws area below Hillside Stadium, Stewart spoke to media and the crowd before signing autographs. Many young people quickly formed a line to get their photo taken with him, some holding his medal, including one youth who surprised at how heavy it was.
Stewart told the crowd his work in the shot put circle is something he does not just for himself, but for his supporters, as well.
“I do it for you guys so that we can continue to spread this message. What is this message? It’s that we’re going to go out there and do our best. We’re going to live in this moment,” Stewart said.
He told KTW his goal was never to win gold, but to qualify for the Games, which leaves the medal as “icing on the cake.”
Asked what’s next for him, Stewart said he doesn’t have an answer and simply wants to enjoy this time with family and friends after years of hard work.
But Stewart isn’t one to sit around. In the midst of a two-week lull between the Paralympics and a much-deserved vacation, he has another shot put competition lined up for Sept. 17.
Had he not succeeded at the Paralympics, Stewart said it would have been easy to retire.
“But now I’m a gold medalist, I’m the Paralympic champion, I’m in shape, I feel good,” he said. “What do we do with that? So that’s why it’s like maybe I’ll go compete some more.”
Stewart noted his record Paralympic throw was just five centimetres shy of the world record — perhaps he could challenge that next.