In a two-part interview with nsif, Paralympic canoeist in training Jonny Young talks about the journey from his accident to Rio 2016.
How have your feelings and outlook changed since just after the accident, to today?
Straight after the accident a lot of my thoughts were short term. Dealing with pain management, rehab and learning how to become more independent. Having an incomplete injury has made me feel like I should be striving to get the most out of what I have and the progression I have seen has been a real encouragement to keep striving.
I have always been aware that I could plateau in regards to that progression at any point, but I do not feel like I have just yet. So I try to keep my focus on what I can do today but I have started to think more long term with that plateau in mind.
I attended a coaching course recently to convert my previous paddling qualifications into a more suitable one for after I have finished racing.
I enjoyed my life before the accident, and sometimes still grieve for that old life. But I refused to let the injury define me and I can still enjoy my life.
You say in your blog that you are on an adventure, can you tell us a bit about that adventure?
While in hospital I thought a lot about how much my life was going to change. I thought about who I was before the injury and felt there were three areas that defined who I was as a person. I was a Christian and the way I tried to live my life hopefully reflected that. I also enjoyed a physical challenge, especially in the outdoors and I thrived on adventure. Getting to go to new places or push myself to get out of my comfort zone. I decided that having a spinal injury didn’t have to stop me from being any of those three things, but it would certainly change them.
My faith has both taken knocks and been encouraged directly because of the injury. Physically, I push myself hard every day and as I mentioned I am stronger on my top half now than ever before but my legs are a fraction of what they were. Adventure is certainly still going on. Taking an escalator ride in my wheelchair was a new experience along with numerous other firsts. With canoeing alone I got to go to three countries I had never been to before last year.
This new life I have is very different to my old life and sometimes it can feel mundane when all I do is eat, train, sleep repeat! But it’s the perseverance though the tough bits that add value to any adventure. I am learning new skills, physically and mentally, and get to put them to the test under high-pressure environments of selection races and international regattas. So I still very much get to feel like I am a part of something that I find exciting.
Who and what have been the most important things in your life in the past two years?
My wife has been exceptional at being by my side. She barely left the hospital in the months that I was there. She has researched everything she could about SCI and all it entails, she probably knows more about it than I do. She has made sacrifices without question and done more for me than I can ever really sum up. I guess you could say that she has taken as much ownership over the injury as I have and has endured all the negative aspects of it as her own. From that point, we have both been really cared for by our families. In a way I’m surprised how big an impact a simple skiing accident has had on so many people around me.
Since leaving hospital, canoeing has obviously played a huge part in our lives too. Giving me a focus, community and a reason to move house! So I am very thankful to British Canoeing for providing me with such a great opportunity.
Do you have any message for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation’s followers on our website and social media?
Be encouraged. All is not lost because of a spinal injury but persevere, both as a follower going through whatever it is you might be going through and as a foundation. Your work is good and good things will come, which we are already seeing but do not settle just yet, even if a “plateau” feels like it is on its way. Also thanks for showing an interest in me, it has been an encouragement in itself!
Of course if you would like to get in touch find me on twitter @jonny_paracanoe or have a read of my blog www.jonnyparacanoe.wordpress.com.
For Part One of Jonny’s story, click here