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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Sit-ski a natural fit for Collin Cameron
by Randy Pascal

It has been quite the whirlwind six month stretch for Collin Cameron, with his next stop now scheduled for the week of February 21st to 28th, in Finsterau (Germany). Pretty amazing stuff, for a 27 year-old who was only introduced to para-nordic skiing in the fall of 2015.

Born with arthrogryposis, a disease that causes a shortness of the legs, and under-development of muscles and tendons in the legs, Cameron was raised in Bracebridge, moving to Sudbury some three and a half years ago.

Never one to sit idle, Cameron was anxious to overcome the obvious challenges. "My parents got me a hand-cycle when I was thirteen or fourteen, and I used that to go everywhere," he said. "I still have it, but it's taken quite a beating."

Moving to this area, he would eventually hook-up with the Northern Sliders Sledge Hockey team, still somewhat unaware of the scope of opportunities that exist in Greater Sudbury.

"I was sending a message to the Sudbury Accessible Sports page on Facebook," Cameron recalled. "They had a picture of a (sledge hockey) team from Ohio, but not our team. I ended up "liking" the page, and my news feed was getting flooded with information regarding para-nordic skiing from Patti Kitler."

"I kept seeing all these pictures of sit-skis, and I thought that it looked like a lot of fun. It just seemed like such a natural fit, going from sledge hockey to something like that." Somewhat natural for some, perhaps. But in Cameron's case, it was clear, early on, that he had hit the jackpot, athletically speaking.

Invited to attend the traditional Thursday night practice session, the focused young man displayed a potential not often seen. "It was all Patti, I have to give her credit there," said Cameron. "She recognized something the first time I came out."

"You're basically doing the same thing (as in sledge hockey), just with more technique and longer polling." Kitler wasted little time in taking the local talent to the next level, inviting Cameron to join para-nordic skiers from across the country at an identification camp in Canmore, Alberta in November.

"I didn't really take her seriously at first," Cameron laughed. "But I always wanted to see the mountains. I had never been out west before. It was quite the experience." Thanks to the late fall/early winter effects of El Nino, the relative newbie to the sport had little or no snow experience to draw upon as he took to the trails, in Alberta, with members of the national team.

"It was a perfect place to go skiing for the first time," said Cameron. "It was my first time on real snow and trails." And so he observed, learning from watching those that he accompanied in training sessions, anxious to put his newfound knowledge to the test once he was back home.

"Patti came out with me almost every day, working on technique," he explained. "And I sat on the ski erg that we have, and really got familiar with the white wall in front of me." By the time 2016 rolled around, coach and pupil wanted to up the ante, travelling to Vermont in January, site of the U.S. National Championships.

"I think I surprised myself," Cameron admitted. "I did better than I thought I was going to, and I had more fun than I thought I was going to have. The taste of actual racing for the first time was awesome."

And though his rise in his new athletic endeavour has been quite meteoric, Cameron is remaining grounded as he makes only his second trip outside of Canada (the first one was Vermont).

"Basically, I am going just to experience what it is to race at a World Cup event, and work on getting a sit-ski made for me," he said. "My long-term goal is to try and qualify for the Olympics."

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