Photo: Chris Welner
Driving For Tokyo Games
2020 Paralympic hopeful Dalten Campbell.
There was never a wheelchair in Dalten Campbell’s dreams. An all-star teenage football player, Campbell’s life was just getting started when he fell from the third storey of a new house he was framing and broke his back, paralyzed from the chest down at age 19.
But when Campbell tunes in to the Rio Paralympics this summer and watches Canada’s top-ranked wheelchair basketball team, Campbell envisions himself on court at the 2020 Games in Tokyo with a maple leaf on his jersey.
“I was riding high — you know life is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, it’s still beautiful — but then I’m in a hospital bed and I can’t move. It was a hard thing to wrap my head around. For a while, I was kind of bummed,” says Campbell, 23. “I reached the point where I was either going to be a miserable freakin’ cripple my whole life, or I’m going to achieve something and turn this into something that maybe I could never achieve even when I was able bodied.”
At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Campbell was recruited from the Calgary minor football ranks to play junior in Victoria, B.C. He had just returned from his second season in Victoria and was left paralyzed from the chest down on August 21, 2012, just days ahead of the London Paralympics.
It took almost two years after his injury, coping with life in a chair, depression and the metal rods screwed into his spine when he joined a friend at wheelchair basketball. Soon after, he was invited to a national development camp in Toronto and now is training to make the Canadian team for 2020.
“When you are in a chair, there’s just no space for negative thoughts because it just rolls downhill. One negative thought leads to another — I’m in a chair; it takes five minutes to put on my shoes; I’ve got to haul my dead legs over …” Campbell says. “I told myself, ‘it can be shit your whole life, or you can get back to being who you were and find different ways to do the things you did before. Sport has given me back a lot of what I previously had in my life.”
“I’ve got a long road ahead, but I’m stoked to be out there working toward my goals and making that Tokyo dream come true.”