Past, Present, and Future: Pamela LeJean’s Journey to the Top and Beyond

Pamela LeJean certainly knows how to overcome obstacles and turn negatives into positives. The 31 year old from Sydney, Nova Scotia, who has achieved numerous successes in her relatively short para-athletics career, has found the next obstacle she must overcome — the lack of funding and exposure for amateur athletes. “I saw [former para-athlete] Ryan Shay’s video and how it made him look so cool and badass,” LeJean said about the benefits of during an interview. “It can really boost your career, both financially and on social media. You get your name out there, get more exposure.”

LeJean, who has succeeded at both the national and international level in para-athletics, never considered trying to make it big in sports when she played basketball, rugby, and swimming growing up. “No one ever did that. It was unattainable. It was more simple. There was the social aspect, hanging out with friends. It was the driving force back then.”

But this all changed when LeJean was involved in a car accident at age 17 that left her in a wheelchair. This moment is when she, in her own words, became a “different person” and a “competitive beast.”

At first, she played wheelchair basketball, but had to give it up due to shoulder injuries. This is when her coach noticed she had a big wingspan and pushed her to try to get into the throwing events. “I didn’t think of any other sport. I threw the national standard right away. From my first throw, that was my first full day of training. It was my ticket to something. I had to work hard and dedicate my life to it. It was never casual. I was doing it for the Paralympics.”

Some of LeJean’s accomplishments include holding three national records in the F53 shot put, javelin, and discus, winning gold and bronze in shot put and javelin at last summer’s Parapan American Games in Toronto, and a bronze and silver in the shot put at the 2013 and 2015 IPC World Athletics Championships, respectively. In addition to these accolades, she also has the current North American record in the shot put with a toss of 4.48 meters at June’s Aileen Meagher International Track Classic. When you also add her recent gold medal in the same event at the Canadian National Athletics Championships this past weekend, she is fully qualified to represent Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio in September. But, when asked if she was surprised about how fast she rose through the ranks, she was not at alI. She said saying something like that would be a “jerk thing to say.” She went on to say “I believed that I would do something. I have been working hard on this.”

When it comes to her greatest accomplishment and most vivid memory thus far, it came from the Parapan Am Games. “The influential part there was that my family and friends were there. I had never experienced a big event with them before. I’m always thousands of miles away. It was so powerful to experience that with them. That’s when I was most proud.”

All the things that LeJean has experienced in sports have given her valuable life lessons that will stick with her down the road. “I try to learn everything I can from negative experiences. You learn most from negative experiences. I always find positives in low moments. It builds character and keeps you humble.”

Despite everything she has been through, she has stayed positive. “Since the accident, it has been a huge part of my recovery. I’m a naturally positive person. When you have to deal with inner turmoil, you rediscover who you are and apply it to your everyday life. It’s too easy to have negativity.”

LeJean has also dedicated time to speaking with others, especially kids, about her experience and inspiring them to reach their potential regardless of whatever obstacles stand in their way. “Kids in their formative years have tons of influences. Anywhere I can be is a great opportunity.”

When it came to contemplating what her future holds beyond her next target of competing at the Paralympics, she has an apprehensive, yet exciting response to the thought. “That’s a terrifying thought. I do dream to do both the Summer and Winter Paralympics. I hate the cold, but I’m a deadly shot, since I want to join the RCMP, so I been thinking about biathlon. Doing a winter sport will keep me busy and mentally stimulated. I have also been thinking about cross training. I would love to do rowing in 2020 or 2024 but I might be too old by then. I’m passionate about law, which is another reason I want to join the RCMP. I don’t know what the future holds, but I have lots of options.”

There are 49 days left in LeJean’s Campaign. Here’s the link where you can donate.

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