Local paralympic athlete headed for London
Canada Day 2012 was a special one for Earle Connor.
The 35-year-old Airdrie resident and sprinter was named to the Canadian paralympic team, July 1, after competing in the Canadian Track and Field Trials at Foothills Athletic Park June 27 to 30. It will be Connor’s third appearance at the Paralympic Games, which will take place in London from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” he said. “It was a pretty good moment.”
While most elite athletes spend the four years in between the Olympic Games training, Connor only had months. After taking three years off after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he decided in September 2011 to make a run at another gold medal and began training to compete in London this summer. At the Canadian Trials, he won the amputee 100-metre dash with a time of 12.463, which secured his ticket to England.
“Every race I ran (leading into the trials), I was getting a little bit faster, so I’m hoping that trend continues.”
Connor was born in Castlegar, B.C. and grew up in Dalmeny, Sask. He was born without a fibula, and doctors amputated his left leg when he was three months old. From an early age, he held a passion for sports. There wasn’t a sport he wouldn’t try or he didn’t succeed at. He played tennis, baseball and basketball, but his first love was hockey, and as a goaltender, he was the first amputee drafted into the WHL when he was chosen by the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Connor took an interest in the Paralympics after watching the 1996 competition in Atlanta on television. He began training shortly after and won his first 100-metre T42 gold medal at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Aus.
“I knew they existed, but I thought that they were more about participation,” he said. “Once I saw that the athletes were in shape and there were 45,000 people watching in the stands, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.
“(Sydney) was a surreal experience and it was an eye-opening awakening for me. The most enjoyable part was that I was able to compete against my peers. I could compete against people like me and test myself.”
Along with his gold medal in the T42 100-metre dash, Connor also brought home a silver medal from Sydney in the 200-metre dash. He missed the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and was banned from competition for two years after testing positive for testosterone and nandrolone just prior to the Games. The testosterone is believed to be from a doctor-prescribed patch Connor wore after having one of his testes surgically removed after a cancer scare in 2001.
He returned to competition in time for the 2008 Paralympics in China, where he won gold in the 100-metre and set a new Paralympic world record with a time of 12.32 seconds. Connor counts Beijing as his favourite competition.
“Not only was it an opportunity to run in China, but also to show people with a disability in that part of the world that there are no limitations on you besides the ones you place on yourself. You get to show what a human being can do whether they’re missing a limb or not.”
Besides training five days a week on the track and three days a week in the gym, Connor also has to balance running the business he owns in Cochrane.
He and his wife settled in Airdrie two years ago, and he’s hoping to return home in the fall with another gold medal around his neck.
The feeling of winning and the excitement leading up to the Games is something he never tires of, he said.
“Absolutely, 100 per cent the excitement is still there,” he said. “It doesn’t get old, it gets new. I do feel like a kid every time I go to practise. I definitely want to win another gold medal and represent Canada and Alberta and, now, Airdrie.”