Josh Cassidy will race for his first Paralympic medal on Sunday in Rio, the only medal missing from his resume. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Josh Cassidy races for his first Paralympic medal

Canadian wheelchair racer qualifies for finals in his first race at Rio Games

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Josh Cassidy strives for his first Paralympic medal on Sunday in Rio – the only hardware missing from his resume.

The 2015 Parapan Am Games 5,000m T54 silver medalist qualified for the finals with a time of 10:27.94. This is by no mean’s Cassidy’s best in this distance, and has already turned his focus onto Sunday’s finals.

“First one, getting the jitters out, didn’t feel the best going in, there were a couple of tangle ups,” said the 31-year-old Guelph resident. “All in all, everyone is pushing really well and I’m just happy to be through to the final and get another shot.”

Cassidy was a medal favourite heading into the 2012 London Paralympic Games, but fell short of his expectations after suffering from a mysterious flu. He will not allow his previous struggles hold him back from his dreams of becoming a Paralympic medalist in Rio.

“It’s so long ago, but being back here, the memory is there,” he said. “It has been a very difficult year, it feels like it’s been a year full of struggles and challenges and the way I’m looking at it is hopefully it is the other way around.

“It has all come together now when it matters most.”

For the audience, the men’s 5,000m T54 athletes are sitting at the top of the Paralympic spectrum. No one knows that better than former Paralympic athlete and CBC broadcaster, Rob Snoek.

“These are professional athletes, and they are the best of the best,” he said. “Forget about medals, if you even make it to the finals in this sport, you are doing something.”

Cassidy’s attitude about sports matching Snoek’s description perfectly – he is a professional. Racing is heavily involved in one of the racer’s other passions, motivational speaking.

“Sport is such a microcosm for life,” he said. “You’re throwing yourself voluntarily in front of obstacles and constantly pushing yourself to be better.

“The examples and the things that I learn through sport, is that it’s just about becoming the best version of yourself and overcoming the challenges.”

Twitter: @laurcascagnette