Stewart sets sights on Paralympic dreams

The 23-year-old member of the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club looks to family and coach for support

Corey Stewart takes to the Alouette River for a day of training with his goal of qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro next summer.

Corey Stewart takes to the Alouette River for a day of training with his goal of qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro next summer.

As Corey Stewart makes his way from his kayak to his wheelchair, his mother Paula gently rests her hands on his shoulder.

The 23-year-old member of the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club is six weeks removed from his silver-medal performance at the nationals in Ottawa.

The hulking Stewart may have lost out on gold by just four tenths of a second, but the result pushed the possibility of a trip to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro on the training schedule. The goal has always been Tokyo in 2020, but his strong showing in the nation’s capital has changed the narrative.

But it won’t come easy for the soft-spoken Stewart.

Born with spina bifida and cognitive delays, Stewart’s accomplishments on the water are a testament to his natural abilities. Barrel-chested, he has the size and strength needed to excel in his sport.

But it’s the support around him that truly allows him to shine on the national stage, and hopefully, one day, at the Paralympics.

His mother Paula is overwhelmed by her son’s success. It’s not something she ever imagined when she first brought her son to the club in 2008.

“It’s surreal,” said Paula. “Our lifestyle is very day-to-day. Paddling is just something that Corey loves to do and I just make sure his days can stay consistent so he can and have these types of opportunities. The rewards that come with it are pretty incredible. But we’re not really fully comprehending the magnitude of where he’s gone and what he can do.”

On a beautiful fall day, the groundswell for support for Stewart’s dream is evident on the docks at the paddling club. As Stewart takes to the water, his mother Paula is joined by his head coach Brian Hammer, along with paddling club founder Rick Hammer, and Mary Jane Abbott, who is the executive director of CanoeKayakBC.

Also joining them is provincial MLA Michelle Stilwell, the minister of social development and social innovation. Stilwell broke her neck in a fall when she was 17. Confined to a wheelchair, she went on to win gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics in basketball. In Beijing in 2008, she won gold in the 100 and 200 metre, and in 2012 won gold in the 200 m and silver in the 100 m. She said she just wanted the chance to meet Stewart in hopes of inspiring him to following his dreams.

“When I heard about Corey, and his rowing achievements, I wanted to meet and encourage him,” said Stilwell, who still holds the world record in the 100, 200 and 800 m.

“Sports teach you so much that you can use in life. You learn to work hard, you learn perseverance and you learn discipline. These are important life skills that will help Corey reach his dreams.”

Stilwell said she thinks seeing Stewart succeed shows that our communities are stronger when we find ways to include and support each other.

“For Corey, it means building his skills and confidence. It’s a source of pride for him, his family and his hometown. That’s why it is also important to recognize groups like the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club and CanoeKayakBC that are accessible and welcoming to everyone.”

For Paula, the word discipline is exactly what has been the blessing from Corey’s venture into competitive racing.

“If we didn’t have consistency or the stability that we have here and what we’ve learned from his coach Brian, our life would be so much more challenging.”

For now, that moment is training. Stewart, out of breath, said he just hopes he can continue to do what he loves most.

I just want opportunity to represent Pitt Meadows Paddling Club and doing what I truly love, which is competing and racing at a national level,” said Stewart.

For his coach, the 2016 Paralympics may be a stretch, but the skill is there.

“He’s the second fastest in Canada within point four of a second, and making up that time shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s making up the time for the world and Olympic standards that will be the challenge,” said Hammer.

“It’s not impossible, it’s just going to require a lot of training on Corey’s part.”

But like everyone else on the dock, he’s looking forward to the challenge, one day at a time.

For Paula, the idea of going to the Paralympics is hard to fathom.

“I think, when the day comes, that will be very emotional. But like I said, we live in the moment.”

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows residents can take part in a free online emergency preparedness presentation on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Sign up in advance. (Pitt Meadows graphic)
Pitt Meadows presentation helps residents prep for emergencies

People can sign up in advance for the Tuesday event

Pitt Meadows fire chief Mike Larsson said a quick-thinking neighbour helped keep a utility trailer fire from causing serious damage to a residence (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News file)
Neighbour with garden hose helped save Pitt Meadows home

Helped to prevent fire in trailer from spreading to nearby house

Kanaka Creek Regional Park. (Metro Vancouver/Special to The News)
Visiting parks is good for your health, says UBC study

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows many parks provide opportunities

A 49-year-old man from Coquitlam died after he was hit by a dump truck near Airport Way and Harris Road on Saturday, May 15. (Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Services)
VIDEO: Pedestrian dies after being hit by dump truck in Pitt Meadows Saturday afternoon

Man was walking his bicycle across the road near Airport Way and Harris Road

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
Wildfire near Harrison Mills grows to 3 hectares, BC Fire Service on site

Resident near wildfire: ‘I pray that the Creator brings rain as soon as possible’

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read