Jessica Lewis aiming to add to Parapan Am Games medal haul
Jessica Lewis will be aiming to extend her medal-winning exploits at the Parapan Am Games as she goes in search of a third successive gold in Santiago, Chile.
The 30-year-old wheelchair sprinter has a great affinity with the Games after triumphing in the T53 classification 100 metres in Toronto in 2015 and Lima in 2019, setting Parapan Am Games records on both occasions.
With organisers poised to combine the T53 and T54 disability sports classifications for the 400 metres and 800 metres disciplines, Lewis is well aware her best prospects of adding yet another gold to her collection remains in her favoured event.
“I’m definitely hoping of winning another gold from these Games,” said Lewis, who is scheduled to get her campaign under way in the 400 metres today, followed by the 800 tomorrow and the 100 on Saturday.
“These Games will be a little bit different to previous ones because it looks like they will be combining the T53 classification with the higher-functioning T54 athletes for the 400 and 800, which definitely makes things harder and more challenging for me to compete.
“Obviously I will still be going out to do the best I can in those races, but for sure my priority is the 100 metres, where it should still just be the T53 classification athletes.
“My desire is as strong it was at the previous Games because it is always an honour to be able to bring a medal back home to Bermuda and it’s always an amazing feeling when you can do that.
“It’s always special to represent Bermuda. It still gives me goosebumps and will always be special to me.”
While not a direct qualifier for the Paralympic Games in Paris next year, Lewis still views the event in Chile as a vital tune-up in her preparation towards trying to seal her place at a fourth Paralympics.
“Absolutely these Games are still important,” added Lewis who narrowly missed out on one of four automatic Paralympic qualification places after finishing fifth in the 100 metres at the Para World Championships in Paris, in July.
“It’s a funny period in which I’m at the end of the previous season and the start of the next, but these Games are a good indicator of where I’m at and setting a baseline for my performances and times.
“Particularly in the 100 metres, where it will be interesting to see how I perform and if I can go under my season-best time of 16.52sec. It is also a great opportunity to see what I need to work on ahead of a crucial period of time ahead of the Paralympics.”
In preparation for the Parapan Am Games and beyond, Lewis relocated to Victoria, Canada, to continue working under her new coach, Geoff Harris, who represented Canada in the 800 metres at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“Geoff has been phenomenal and just having the opportunity to work in the environment of the Canadian Sports Institute has been incredible,” said Lewis, who admits her coach’s desire to leave no stone unturned in search of marginal gains has reignited her passion for the sport.
“It’s been a complete 180-degree turn in terms of what I was used to doing and really it’s given me a new love for the sport.
“Geoff is still obviously learning fully about the ins and outs of Para sport, but he has an amazing energy and is not afraid to try new things.
“For me it had become a case of doing the same things over and over again and so it’s been really refreshing to try different things and have a bit of a reset to my preparation.”
One of the drastic changes to Lewis’s preparation has been major alterations to her racing chair, as well as position, with a greater emphasis on focusing on the 100 metres discipline.
“There have been a lot of adjustments, including complete changes to my chair, and also changing my racing position so that I can execute better in the 100 metres specifically.
“There has been some trial and error and that will continue to be the case, but it’s been really great to have a fresh perspective on things in training and trying out all sorts of new things.”