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Lewis handed crucial boost ahead of major racing year

Vital support: Bermudian Wheelchair racer Jessica Lewis (centre) alongside Iris Abraham from Tokio Millennium Re (left) and Leah Dean (right) from RenaissanceRe

Jessica Lewis hailed the importance of the continued financial support she receives ahead of a pivotal year of competition for the wheelchair racer.

The 25-year-old Bermudian is preparing for another action-packed 12-months as she aims to defend her T53 Parapan American Games crown in Lima, Peru in August, before heading to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in November for the World Para Athletic Championships.

Speaking at a fundraising event at The Terrace Restaurant in Hamilton last week, Lewis, who was Bermuda’s flag bearer at the Paralympic Games at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016, spoke of her gratitude towards new main sponsors RenaissanceRe, who will be taking over from Tokio Millennium Re.

“RenaissanceRe have bought my sponsorship from Tokio Millennium Re and I’m so thankful they have stepped in to sponsor me this year,” said Lewis, who was born with a condition called Diastematoemylia.

“That sponsorship is a massive help towards my season but we also do individual fundraising events to help boost my sponsorship because it is so expensive.

“That sponsorship and help certainly takes a lot of the worry out of it for me and without that help things would be a lot harder.

“I have two big events this year with the Pan American Games and the World Championships. Just having that support is incredible and it means I can focus on preparing for those competitions.

“The equipment is a huge chunk of my outlay. The new racing wheelchair that I’ve moved into cost $6,500 alone and then you have tires, gloves, as well as travelling, hotels and then if I bring my coach along there are those costs too. It all adds up when you go away to compete. That is why I am so grateful for all the support that I get.”

Casting her eye over the upcoming year, Lewis is targeting a repeat of 2015, where she won both a gold medal in the Parapan American Games and a bronze medal in the World Para Athletic Championships.

“There is a lot of pressure on me this year going into those events but I’m really excited to go there and compete again,” said Lewis who narrowly missed out on a podium place in last year’s World Para Athletic Championships, finishing fourth in Berlin, Germany.

“I definitely hope to make the podium again at the World Championships because I just missed out last year so it will be great to make amends.

“I have transitioned into a new racing chair that Tokio Millennium Re helped buy for me and I’m so grateful for that.

“Hopefully that can give me a little more power and speed going into this year because those fine margins make all the difference.

“Having tasted success before at those events is definitely a confidence boost but there are other athletes who have come along and they are always getting faster.

“Because of that, I can never just relax going into events, you have to make sure you’re at the top of your game all of the time.

“I love Bermuda so much and it is absolutely incredible to go out there and represent my country.

“The support I receive from everybody is always incredible and makes those tough days so much easier. Just to be there with Bermuda on my back is the biggest thing for me.”