Jared Funk can’t wait to return to the Paralympics in a few weeks, and he was in Brandon on Friday to share his excitement.
The 39-year-old Niverville native came to the Wheat City as part of the RBC Hometown Championship Cheer Tour just before he vies for his third Paralympic medal in wheelchair rugby. Funk had just returned from training in Montreal for the Games and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share his passions before heading overseas.
“I did the Torch Run in 2010 when it went across Manitoba and I loved it,” he said. “I love promoting the Olympics and Paralympics and this is a great way to do it.”
Funk has a long career in wheelchair rugby. He started playing in 1993, shortly after he became paralyzed from an accident, and made the national team in 1995. He played for three seasons before taking some time off. Funk rejoined the team in 2001 and was a part of the Canadian squads that won a silver medal at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and a bronze medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Funk believes this may be his last chance to win a Paralympic medal and he would like to complete his collection by winning a gold medal in London.
“I’m trying to bring home gold for my country, my family and friends and for all the time I put in,” he said. “We will medal, but I want it to be gold.”
He’s also hoping his team gets noticed at London.
There have been complaints over the years that the Paralympics take a back seat to the Olympic Games, but Funk believes attitudes are changing. The two-time world wheelchair rugby championship medallist said at the Athens Games felt like they were an afterthought. However, he saw a massive improvement in Beijing and can’t wait to see what London will have in store.
“This time in London, our venue of 13,000 is soldout, and it sold out in two minutes,” he said. “That means there will be a lot of hype around the Games and I can’t wait to play there.”
He also believes that Paralympic athletes are starting to gain a lot more credibility. He said the Paralympic athletes are more high-level athletes now, and it shows with the time and effort they put in, as well as the money they’re paid.
Funk said South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius also brought a lot more credibility to Paralympic athletes with his performance on the Olympic track this year.
“He made semifinals and now the final in the relay,” Funk said. “He’s an amazing athlete. He has to do so much other work than people realize when you use those blades. It’s a disadvantage. It’s not an advantage at all. With that, those guys just raise the bar for everybody, even for the Paralympians too.
“When you see that Paralympians are doing the same time as able-bodied Olympians, there’s a question that has to be asked sometimes, and with that it gives a lot more exposure to the Paralympics.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 11, 2012