By Joey Desjardins, H3 para-cyclist and world cup medallist
Let me take you into my daily routine as a para-cyclist in the men’s H3 category, competing for a spot on the Paralympic team heading to the Tokyo Games and beyond.
Back in 2009, I sustained a spinal cord injury when I crashed my dirt bike and severed my spine. From then on I became paralyzed from the chest down at the T-4-6 levels and spent many months in the hospital learning how to live my new life. Six months after my injury, I purchased my first adapted bike and it brought me so much happiness and independence, something that was taken from me after the injury. Once I discovered that I could choose my own path and push my own limits again I was hooked! I even did my first year of competitions on that same bike, which I called the dinosaur (just to give you an idea).
What does being part of the men’s H3 category even mean? The hand bike categories are comprised of 5 different classifications, breaking down each category by function and level of injury. H3 means you have an injury level anywhere in between the thoracic spine sections 4-12 and it is the biggest category in all of para-cycling.
After sustaining an injury of this magnitude, you start to think about what you really want in life. One was to become the best I can be in sport and the other was to become a father. I am very proud to say that I am now the father of two girls, aged 5 and 2.5. My first daughter came shortly after I started competing at the international level and I can tell you it came with a lot of routine changes and adaptations. Every year is different, from the early stages of not getting much sleep (or little intervals of sleep), to the little ones crawling in my bed at night, to now bringing the oldest one to school and watching her grow up into a beautiful young girl, with the younger one in tow. These have been some of the hardest but most rewarding times of my life. It has taught me to adapt and to be open to change, making me a better all-around athlete.
My daily routine at home goes something like this – wake up (because the girls told me to), make them breakfast while trying to make my own. Get set up for breakfast but before I can take a bite or a sip of coffee, get the girls something else to drink (yes, they are a little bit demanding). Once I have that first cup of coffee, I can function a bit more and start getting things ready to get the girls to school and daycare. I get most of this done by 9:00 a.m. and then I start planning my ride or workout for the day. This goes well into lunch, followed by a bit of a break when I can find the time. I then get the girls back from school and daycare around 3:30 – 4:00 p.m. and the kids take over, or try to at least! Let’s not forget to mention that these things are made achievable because of the amazing wife I have. She makes sure I have the time to make training a priority while still being able to make time for my family. None of this would be possible without her help.
Every day I wake up with my sights set on Tokyo. It has been in the back of my mind since the beginning of the last quad although I knew it wouldn’t come without its challenges. If I was to prove to myself and to others that I could in fact be competitive and be one of the best in the world I would have to work for it. Tokyo was always a long shot for me until recently when I started showing what I could do on the international stage. I am a constant top-8 at world cups and top-10 at world championships over the past 3 years, which is largely due to the dedicated coaching I have received over the years. One of my biggest accomplishments to date is getting my first bronze medal at a world cup in Ostend, Belgium in 2019. All my racing accomplishments have now placed me 6th on the roster for the Tokyo team which is still not fully determined due to outlying factors such as remaining qualification events and team points.
My life has always been about looking forward to the next opportunity and to find new ways to improve myself. I am now preparing for the world cups in 2021, if they are a go, and the next season ahead building up to Paris 2024. This will be my ultimate goal, and to medal at the Paralympics would be a dream come true, but to make dreams come to reality is no easy task. I’m going to have to work harder than I ever have before and with a little luck on my side, anything is possible.