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Lewis dedicates award to late coach

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Paralympian Jessica Lewis dedicated her Achievement Award on Saturday at the 37th annual Bermuda Sports Awards to her late coach Ken Thom who died in a scuba-diving accident in Cape Town, South Africa, last September.

Lewis won the Achievement Award for her accomplishments in 2017, joining long jumper Tyrone Smith, cricketer Delray Rawlins, sailor Cecilia Wollmann and 800 metres runner Shaquille Dill in winning the award.

She gave a moving speech on accepting the award which she dedicated to Thom, who introduced her to wheelchair racing and coached her to medal success at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and the Parapan Am Games in Toronto in 2015. She described Thom, who died at 62, as her coach, mentor and friend.

“I would really like to dedicate this award to my late coach Ken Thom, who saw potential in a little 50lb girl and made her into a little bit stronger 67lb athlete that I am today,” Lewis told the audience at Fairmont Southampton.

“Losing Ken threw a huge curveball into what my future was going to look as we always planned everything out together. Not having his support, encouragement and wicked sense of humour around has been extremely tough.

“I've been very lucky that he brought together a group of incredible athletes that I had to train with. We always say that track is an individual team sport and I'm grateful to be a part of an amazing one.”

She added: “Coach Ken, thank you for your time, your encouragement and your governance, it has helped me more than I can even express. Even though our time together was cut short I will always treasure everything you taught me.

“You always said you never slept because you would get the big sleep one day. Even though I'm sad that you took it so soon, you can rest easy that your legacy will continue on in the hundreds of lives that were made better because of you. Until we meet again I promise to go fast and turn left.”

Lewis also thanked the Bermuda Paralympic Association and Bermudians for their continued support as she competes overseas. Last year she competed in the World Para-Athletics Championships in London, the Canadian National Track and Field Championships and the Swiss National Championships.

At the Canadian Championships in Ottawa last summer, Lewis captured gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres. In London last year, Lewis competed in four events, just missing out on a medal in the 200, while setting a personal best time of 30.47sec to place fourth. She also produced a season-best time of 1:01.12 in the 400 final to place seventh.

“The amount of support that I've received from Bermuda and fellow Bermudians over my years of competing has been phenomenal,” she said.

Lewis met Thom and his son Curtis in 2006 when they came to Bermuda for a sports expo.

It was, she said, when she first time got introduced to the world of wheelchair track racing.

Thom was an key part of the athletics programme with Cruisers Sports for the Physically Disabled in Mississauga, Canada. He also coached his son Curtis to appearances at the 2004, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games, as well as the 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2015 World Para Athletics Championships.

Para-athlete Jessica Lewis (centre) sits with Junior Female Athlete of the Year, Sakari Famous (right), during the Government Sports Awards on Saturday night. On the left is Kimmisha Perinchief, who received the awards for her brother Delray Rawlins who was named the Junior Male Athlete of the Year and also won the Minister's Award and Senior Achievement Award. (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)
Coach and friend: Jessica Lewis and Ken Thom

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Published March 21, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated March 20, 2018 at 10:16 pm)

Lewis dedicates award to late coach

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