RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Canadian para-cyclist Ross Wilson used the same mindset to succeed in the Paralympic Games as he did to lose more than 100 pounds.
Five years ago, Wilson walked into the doctor’s office weighing almost 300 pounds and suffering from a neurological disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth-Disease. In the last week, he won two silver medals at the Paralympics in Rio.
He achieved both feats by taking them one step at a time.
“I’m very goal oriented and very driven, so for me, once I lost the 30 pounds I wanted to make it 50, then I wanted to make that 60,” said Wilson at the cycling track at Pontal. “It was just adding these goals and that’s how I approach my life.
“Even training for cycling. I knew the time that I needed for the pursuit, so that’s what I’ve been training towards. I’m just a disciplined person and I really enjoyed that, but I also think that you can have levity in life and you can enjoy yourself and you kind of go along about it.”
At first, the need to lose weight was strictly for health reasons. His doctor told him that it would be difficult to balance with his disability and he would have a problem with rolling his ankles, especially carrying around extra weight.
Wilson had to choose between taking control of his life, or continuing the way he was going. He chose control.
With his then girlfriend, now wife, and a couple of his friends, he set up a weight loss challenge.
“I got started and in four or five months, I lost 40 pounds and I just kept going,” he said. “Over the course of the year it was 110. Once I was down around the 160 mark, I thought I could pull off owning a road bike and going around in the Lycra and all that.”
The chartered accountant from Edmonton, Alta., bought his first bike simply to be able to maintain his new weight and stay fit. The next spring, he purchased a racing bike and it was only three short years later that he was competing in the Rio Paralympics.
In Rio for his first Games, Wilson, 34, picked up two silvers – in cycling track’s men’s time trial C1 and the other in cycling road’s men’s C1 3000m individual pursuit.
Although initially frustrated with his finish, he was able to look at positives.
“I was disappointed not to win the gold, but I look at the way I navigated the course, the speed that I did it in, and I was fairly technical for some of those turnarounds,” Wilson said. “I think that it was nice to affirm to the world that even though I hadn’t ridden a time trial internationally in two years that I am a contender.
“Even though I haven’t been around, don’t forget about me.”
As for his mysterious weight loss challenge that gave him the opportunity to become a Paralympian?
It really was not anything special, he said.
“Everybody thinks that I did something special or I followed some magic,” Wilson said. “I managed what I ate, I controlled my caloric intake, and I exercised. It’s not rocket science, calories in versus calories out.”
Besides the healthier lifestyle and international athletic awards, Wilson admits that there are other benefits to his dramatic weight loss.
“It wouldn’t look nearly as offensive as seeing a 300 pound guy with Lycra stretched around him. There is only so much stretch that Lycra does.”