Rejuvenated Jessica Lewis has renewed confidence ahead of Paralympic Games
Jessica Lewis has found a sense of rejuvenation as she continues her preparations for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, this month.
With the curtain coming down on the Olympic Games at the weekend, attention in the Japanese capital is now fully focused on the Paralympics, scheduled to be held from August 24 to September 5.
Having endured a torrid past 18-months in which the Covid-19 pandemic all but wiped out last year’s sporting calendar, Lewis — Bermuda’s sole Paralympian in Tokyo, competing in wheelchair sprinting — admitted she has regained her confidence both mentally and physically, with a June move back to her training base in Canada proving particularly pivotal.
“Preparations are definitely going well and I’m really excited with where I am at right now,” said the 27-year-old, who secured her qualification spot after finishing fourth in the in the women's 100 metres T53 final at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai.
“I made the decision to travel back to Canada at the beginning of June to be with my coach and team-mates again, and I’m so pleased that I did that. It has given me a real confidence boost and I’m back in the proper mindset of training and competing again.
“I was also fortunate enough to be able to compete in a couple of races in Quebec and Toronto, which was great. In Quebec I managed to break the one-minute mark in the 400 metres, which was really exciting and I also came really close to a personal best time in the 100 in Toronto.
“Being able to race again was key for my preparation because really it was my only opportunity to compete before leaving for Tokyo and I didn’t want my first race in over a year to be at the Paralympics.
“Also just being back in Canada and around my team-mates has been vital for the mental preparation. We are going through the tough moments together and it’s great to have that support around you.
“I just feel like my mental and physical preparation is really coming together now and that gives me a lot of confidence ahead of Tokyo.
While her confidence has been reignited, Lewis conceded that because of a lack of consistent competition against her rivals, it is almost impossible to gauge just how she may fare in Tokyo, despite previously being considered among the medal contenders had the Games gone ahead as originally scheduled last year.
“Obviously it’s hard to know what level others are at heading into Tokyo,” she added. “All I am trying to do is just focus on myself and make sure I race to the level that I can.
“The last time we really all raced against one another was 2019, so it will be interesting to see where people are at. However, like I said, all that really matters is that my own preparations are as good as they possibly can be and making sure I focus fully on myself.
“I feel like I’ll be under a lot of pressure as Bermuda’s sole athlete, but perhaps that pressure is coming from myself. I just love representing Bermuda and I’m just grateful any chance I have to represent the nation. I’ll be trying to take everything in my stride and making sure I do everything I can to make Bermuda proud.”
Lewis previously spoke of her uncertainty about whether she was fully convinced about competing in Tokyo, with many demanding the guaranteed safety of competitors ahead of the Games, with para-athletes more susceptible to the dangers of Covid-19.
However, despite Tokyo recording more than 4,000 new cases yesterday, Lewis has been reassured by the organisers’ handling of the pandemic, having watched events unfold throughout the Olympic Games.
“I’ve been watching the Olympics and it’s definitely reassuring seeing events taking place in the stadium and the whole Games running relatively smoothly,” added Lewis, who is scheduled to fly to Tokyo on August 20, ahead of being handed the honour as Bermuda’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony four days later.
“Seeing the Olympics going on has made it so much more real that the Paralympics are definitely going ahead and I’ll be out there in Tokyo soon.
“This will be my third Paralympic Games but that excited feeling will always be there, the same as it was in my previous Games.
“Being the flag bearer is a massive moment for any athlete and it will be an awesome experience to be there with the Bermuda flag.“