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ATHLETICS

August 2, 2008
The Record, Josh Brown

Leah Robinson – At 14, she's the youngest Canadian to compete

Leah Robinson is only 14.

That makes her the youngest Canadian -- able bodied or not -- headed to the Olympics in Beijing.

"When I started running, it's what I wanted," she said of her Paralympic aspirations. "Then when I got involved with the para-athletics side of it, it became even more real. That's when I set my goal of London in 2012 because I would be 18-years-old. But I had the dream of Beijing secretly in the back of my head."

It's a good thing she did. Because her speedy times on the track made her a natural selection for the "Rising Stars" category reserved for a select few athletes whose futures are bright.

Robinson, who lives in Mannheim, competes in the T37 category for athletes with cerebral palsy. The disability affects the muscles on the right side of her body, mostly in her leg. As a result, she walks with a limp. But it's barely noticeable, if at all, when she runs the 100-and 200-metre dash.

The Rockway Mennonite Collegiate student started running long distances as a child but has since moved on to sprinting with great success. She won both her events at the recent Pararalympic trials in Windsor and holds three national records in the 400, 800 and 1,500M.

Robinson has raced all over North America but Beijing will be her first international competition. Coaches are looking to groom her for future Paralympics.

The Grade 10 student wants to compete in two more Summer Games before pursuing a degree in sports sciences.

Right now, the focus is on personal bests. She is currently working with a personal trainer in preparation for the Paralympics, which run Sept. 6-17 in Beijing.

Robinson owns a powerful kick and is quickly improving her start out of the blocks.

"She's a fierce competitor," said Canadian Paralympics coach Dave Greig. "Now that the mental side has caught up with her natural graces, look out."

Robinson says the Paralympics have changed her life for the better. She's made countless friends, travelled to several cities and is getting closer to the Canadian record in the 100 and 200 metre sprints.

"I'm really happy because there is an organization like this," she said. "It just lets people like me do stuff that people don't always think is possible. That's a really good thing because we can do stuff and we can overcome a disability."

jbrown@therecord.com

THE FACTS

Sport: Paralympic track
Event:100 and 200-metre dash
Hometown: Mannheim, Ontario
Age: 14
Family: Dad Chris, mom Laura and brother Liam

Paralympic experience: None.
Highlights: Holds Canadian paralympic records in the 400, 800 and 1,500 M. ... Won gold in the 100 and 200 M at the recent Canadian Paralympic trials in Windsor. ... Won high school gold in the ambulatory 100 M dash at this year's provincial finals.

Fun facts: Likes to water ski at the family cottage. ... Looks up to hurdler Perdita Felicien and Chantal Petitclerc, a world-class Canadian wheelchair athlete. ... Enjoys ice cream and chocolate. ... Doesn't drink pop. ... Listens to hip-hop when warming up. ... Going into Grade 10 at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. ... Belongs to the Laurel Creek Track Club.

 




 


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