WATCH: New Brunswick wheelchair racer Veronica Coombes recently won three silver medals at the world junior wheelchair races. It’s an accomplishment that many thought was not possible. Global’s Shelley Steeves reports.
SHEDIAC CAPE, N.B. – New Brunswick athlete Veronica Coombes has brought home three silver medals for Canada in wheelchair racing at the IWAS World Junior Championships in the Netherlands.
“I felt the best I have ever felt,” she said in an interview with Global News on Wednesday, shortly after arriving home.
But her mother, Aralee Coombes, says it was a moment of sheer glory that she didn’t think was possible.
“If you would have told me last year that at this time that I would be talking to you a year later about her winning three silver medals at the world juniors I would not have believed you,” she said. “I didn’t think that she was going to be able to race again.”
That’s because she says last year, Coombes spent seven months in the hospital with full kidney failure, a complication of living with spina bifida.
“I was definitely scared that it was going to be over cause I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said the 17-year-old.
Coombes has been wheelchair raising for 10 years. She holds a provincial record and has been a medalist at the Nationals and the Canada Games.
But when she fell ill in January of last year, her mother feared her daughter’s racing career was over.
“I didn’t know how this would even be possible with her having dialysis every day and would she be healthy enough and strong enough to follow her dream,” Coombes said.
Her dream was to compete at the IWAS World Juniors and eventually at Paralympic Games in 2020.
But her mother says that all seemed almost impossible when Coombes arrived home from the hospital.
“She could not even get into the house on her own strength because she had lost so much muscle mass.”
“I told my mom, I told my coach, I said I don’t care what we do, get me on the track. Get me back to where I was at this time last year,” Coombes said.
With the help of her coach from Halifax, Coombes has proven that her will to compete is stronger than physical limitations.
After months of intense training, a strict diet and plenty of rest in between dialysis, somehow she says her race times are actually faster than before.
“Nothing can stop me.”
Coombes says she is not considering a kidney transplant just yet. She fears that would set her back months in training. She says while it does take her body longer to recover from a work out now, she feels strong and healthy.
Now with three medals at the world juniors, she has her sights on 2020, and her mother could not be more proud.
“For her to keep that dream even when others around her were not sure she was going to be able to go that. She just said don’t worry about that, I am going to do my dream and that’s what I am most proud of.”