There’s one word Paralympian Lonnie Bissonnette doesn’t want to hear. It will literally make him push back as hard as he can to prove someone wrong.
That word is “no.”
“I had broken my neck, my back, shattered my femur, my ribs and I said to (the doctor), ‘How long do you think it will before I can jump again?'” Bissonnette said.
The doctor instead told Bissonnette that he would not be able to jump again.
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In 2004, Bissonnette was involved in a tragic accident in Idaho that’s left him in a wheelchair ever since. He trying to set a Canadian record in base jumping when his foot got caught in his chute and he went down, hitting the water at about 130 km/, suffering a spinal chord injury.
But that didn’t stop him.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘I’m sorry you don’t know who you’re talking too and I will jump again,'” Bissonnette said.
“It was about 10-and a half months after the accident that I made my first parachute jump back.”
“I was so determined that I was going to get back in the air.”
And he did this Saturday, when he took part in the 2019 Skydiving National Championships in Wasaga Beach, taking his skydiving experience one step further — by strapping himself into his wheelchair.
He and his team manufactured a chute for the chair and created safety straps in case they ran into trouble.
“It’s inspirational for anybody really, it’s been fantastic,” said Gareth Parry, who has been jumping with Bissonnette since 1990.
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“We’ve not only done a lot of skydives together, we’ve probably jumped around the world together — in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Europe — it’s fun and every time it’s a little different.”
A born athlete, Bissonnette can be found in the winter months training and competing for Canada on the Paralympic bobsled team. On off days, he helps to guide others dealing with similar injuries.
Bissonnette was a crowd favorite as he landed his chair with such ease on Saturday.
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