While the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games was followed with a sense of relief from a safety standpoint, there was a mix of emotions for Jennifer Brown.
Brown, based out of Calgary, Alberta, is a discus thrower in the F38 category for Canada.
Despite having had plenty of momentum going into the Paralympic Games, after winning gold at the 2019 Parapan Am Games and posting a personal best at the IPC World Championships, the postponement came with positives that overshadowed the negative.
“Obviously, it’s really clear in this environment that it’s not safe for athletes to be out training and doing what they need to be doing,” Brown said. “There’s always some level of disappointment when you’re building for one moment in time and that moment in time gets moved.
“It’s a bit of both (positive and negative). It’s always good to have more time. There’s nothing ever wrong with time for more preparation.”
Brown started out competing in track and field in high school, followed by competing in the hammer throw for the University of Calgary and University of Saskatchewan.
Her experience as a student-athlete is one that she credits to have helped her learn how to work through all her endeavours.
“Learned how to train with a purpose, work hard in school, work smart – so it wasn’t just about burning all the hours,” she said. “Much to now, I couldn’t just be one thing. The skillset I got from being a student-athlete was immense because it allowed me to juggle lots of things at a time.”
Following her graduation from the University of Saskatchewan, she set foot into her career in urban planning, starting in structure planning of permits and later delving into waste and recycling and arts and culture for the City of Calgary.
In 2006, only a year out from graduating, at 26 years old, she went through a life-changing experience.
Her left leg had shut down and about 50 percent of her right leg had as well. After spending time in the hospital, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a neurological disorder that damages nerve transmissions and attacks the central nervous system.
After a vast amount of time spent in rehabilitation to regain her ability to walk again, she found her way into working with a former track coach with the purpose of looking for consistent activity.
“I started track, not because I thought I’d be going to the Paralympics, it was sort of an unintended consequence,” said Brown. “I started because I knew I needed to get a consistent level of activity, and I needed someone to help me with that.”
Within a few years time and checking off the boxes to be classified for Para Athletics, Brown ended up with two careers in hand, as she still works for the City of Calgary.
“First thing, it’s busy. My time management has become very, very good, my prioritization of how I use time is really good. For me, I really enjoy having something else to think about.
“Being an athlete can be really, sort of a self-centred world because you’re always thinking about ‘How do I feel?’ ‘Am I feeling sick?’ ‘Am I rested?’ ‘How are my legs feeling today?’ and things like that.
“To be able to think about something different, to have to work in a job where giving back to other people, is really fulfilling for me because it takes my thought away from track all the time.”
With more time in hand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a new perspective she gained from her journey with multiple sclerosis carries through to where this new path takes her to the 2021 Paralympic Games.
“It’s really given me a perspective and a bit of a thought around the things that I can control and that I’m willing to try to control and manage versus the things I’m not.”