Lewis targets Doha success
Jessica Lewis said her gold-medal triumph at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto has given her the belief to push for more podium finishes at elite competitions.
Lewis, a wheelchair sprinter, stormed to victory in the T53 100 metres final to make history as the first Bermudian to claim a medal at a major international para-sport competition.
The 22-year-old, whose time of 17.67sec smashed the previous record of 18.18, is now brimming with confidence ahead of the International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in October.
“Winning the gold in Toronto has given me a big confidence boost,” said Lewis, who received a warm welcome home from friends, family and the local media at the LF Wade International Airport yesterday.
“I know I will be up against athletes from different countries in Doha and I just want to see where I stand. I definitely have high hopes in the 100 metres. It will be another big step up, but this medal will drive me even further and make me train even harder.”
Lewis also competed in the 400 and 800 in Toronto, finishing fifth and sixth respectively and admits she needs to do more work with Ken Thom, her coach, to improve at the longer distances.
“This year my coach and I have focused on the 100 and 200,” said Lewis, who finished eighth in the 100 at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France.
“Unfortunately, the 200 wasn't at Parapan Am but it will be at the World Championships.
“At the moment the 400 and 800 are kind of bonus races for me, but I intend to work on those events for next season.”
Lewis became Bermuda's first Paralympian at the London Games in 2012 and has already qualified in the 100 and 400 for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer.
Among those who greeted Lewis at the airport was her proud grandmother, Barbara Cooper, who said she was still on “cloud nine”.
Cooper attended all of Lewis's races at the CIBC Parapan Am Athletics Stadium at York University along with her daughter Lorri Lewis, Jessica's mother, who was Bermuda's chef de mission.
“I'm still up on cloud nine and I don't think my adrenalin is ever going to stop flowing,” Cooper, 82, said.
“It was the most incredible thing to witness. There were so many wonderful supporters — friends and family who live in Canada — who came to see Jessica race.
“I'm extremely proud of her and I've been the super bragging granny ever since.”
Also representing Bermuda in Toronto were Steve Wilson and Yushae DeSilva-Andrade, who competed in the preliminary rounds of Boccia — a precision ball game, related to bowls, played by wheelchair athletes.
All three athletes were introduced to the world of adaptive sport at WindReach Bermuda in Warwick, which helps people with a wide range of disabilities.