Water skiing is a sport of speed, balance, and precision – only a handful of athletes around the world get the chance to compete at a professional level.
However, a group of people in Saskatchewan are proving that the sport isn’t just for the able-bodied.
Blake Lamontagne is an adaptive water skier competing for Canada on the world stage.
“I’ve been able to travel the world and have met so many great people,” Lamontagne said.
In 2007, Lamontagne was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair.
“At the time I was at home and not really doing much of anything,” Lamontagne said. “I was just feeling sorry for myself.”
Lamontagne said a friend encouraged him to try water skiing which he says sparked an enthusiasm for life he hadn’t felt since his accident.
“It honestly changed my life,” Lamontagne said. “I don’t even have words to describe it.”
As a member of the National Adaptive Water Ski Team, he’s training to represent Canada at the 2019 World Disabled Water Ski Championships in Norway this summer.
Lamontagne is one of several people in Saskatchewan trying to grow the adaptive water ski program in Canada which provides people with physical and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to train and compete.
Tournaments also offer slalom, tricks and jumping events for vision impaired individuals, paraplegics and quadriplegics, leg amputees and arm amputees as well as athletes with both arm and leg disabilities.
Coach Dave Wassill says learning the sport has its challenges, but everyone agrees it’s worth the work.
“Everyone skies against a similar disability,” Wassill said. “There’s a category for seated or wheelchair, visually impaired or standing which would be people with a single leg or single arm.”
Wassill says the athletes use specialized equipment and receive training and guidance from experts.
The team is fundraising to help cover travel costs and other expenses during the competition.
To donate to the team, visit their Go Fund Me page.