RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A car crash may have left Jean-Philippe Maranda with paraplegia, but thanks to former coach Jean Laroche, he found a way to take advantage of his weightlifting past and reach sports’ biggest stage.
Laroche convinced Maranda to take advantage of the upper body strength he’d amassed as Canada’s record-holder in the weightlifting clean and jerk to power his wheels around the track in wheelchair racing.
Although the transition has had a few bumps along the way, the native of St-Georges de Beauce, Que. has had strong results en-route to the Paralympics in Rio, including a bronze medal at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
“(Laroche) was a really good coach. He explained everything to me and provided me with all his knowledge about wheelchair racing,” Maranda said, after his race in the 800-metre preliminary heat at Olympic Stadium. “If it was not for him I don’t think I would be in wheelchair racing so I’m very grateful for that.”
The 29-year-old is also grateful for Laroche’s putting up with any difficult behaviour he may have caused him, because he admitted at first it took a lot of repetition to get the skills for racing in a wheelchair down properly.
“I’d want to tell (Laroche) ‘Thank you very much for your patience’ because I’m not an easy athlete (to train),” Maranda said. “My coach always needed to repeat everything, so thank you very much Jean.”
Maranda hasn’t seen the results he’d hoped for in Rio, failing to qualify for finals in the 100-metres, 400-metres or 800-metres. But he’s found many positives to take away because when he first started training with Laroche he never thought he would have even been in this position.
“I knew I had some potential, but it took me two years to think that I could make it to the Paralympics,” Maranda said. “Since then I’ve been working towards Rio so just being here is my first accomplishment and it’s just going to be better in 2020 (at the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo).”