Lisa DeJong cemented her name in Canadian sport history this month by winning the country’s first Paralympic medal in snowboarding.
She did not ride the slopes alone, however – the support from her family and community were vital on the way to a silver medal at the Beijing Games.
COVID-19 disrupted her preparation for the games and it also forced the Saskatchewan native to compete without spectators, so it was great knowing there were others along for the ride.
“My family support is everything, I wouldn’t have been able to go and do what I did without the support back home,” says DeJong, in an internet interview. “Being able to FaceTime while I was in China was so important for me.”
Along with her Beijing silver medal in snowboard cross, in 2021 DeJong won a gold in team event, and silver in both snowboard cross and dual banked slalom in Lillehammer at the world championships.
Beyond her family, the 32-year-old also highlights the importance of people in her communities, Biggar, Sask., and Sherwood Park, Alberta.
“It takes a village to raise a Paralympian,” she said. “It really encouraged me having everybody believing in me, they’re all part of how I was able to win a medal”.
As important as family and community are key, so is financial help.
Because DeJong was ‘One of the 55 up-and-coming Canadian athletes’ she was the recipient of the Petro-Canada Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence (FACE) grant.
That helped her cover costs of new equipment since she was relatively new to the program and would be attending her first winter games.
“The equipment is expensive especially on the Paralympic side … the Petro Canada grant is absolutely amazing,” she said, adding other sources of support are also key.
DeJong believes there needs to be more investment at grassroot and beginner levels, because right now unless you are part of the national or NextGen team “there’s absolutely nothing.”