Ottawa athlete dreams of Paralympic glory in wheelchair fencing

By CityNews Ottawa

As a young athlete, Trinity Lowthian looked like she was on the path to fulfill her dreams of competing at the Olympics.

Competitive in biathlon, triathlon, cross-country and water polo, the Ottawa multi-sport athlete showed tremendous promise, getting herself on to podiums at major provincial competitions.

But, Lowthian, now 20, was thrown a curveball in 2018.

“When I was in grade 10 amd grade 11 I started getting really sick and I wasn't really able to eat or keep anything I was eating down,” said Lowthian on The Sam Laprade Show. “I spent many months at CHEO because I was so malnourished and ended up getting fed intravenously.”

For years, Lowthian's condition was a mystery. Flying around the continent to endless appointments with specialists, she was finally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease..

A weakened immune system opened the door to other illnesses and Lowthian also developed a case of meningitis which has impacted her mobility.

For the consummate athlete, her condition wasn't a set back, just another challenge to overcome on her road to the Olympics. 

While attending the University of Ottawa in 2022, she tried fencing, but her condition kept her from competing with the other able-bodied fencers. Not to be held back, she contacted The Ottawa Fencing Club to train as a para-athlete in wheelchair fencing.

She quickly showed promise, and in November 2022 Lowthian competed in her first para-fencing competition in Brazil, taking home four medals and obtaining a Senior World Ranking in the top 20, the youngest athlete in the group.

She had found her niche, and her dreams of getting to the 2024 Olympics in Paris felt like they were within a slash of her épée. 

Unfortunately, para-fencing is underfunded in Canada, according to Lowthian, and competitions often take place overseas, driving up the costs of training.

“It's the sad reality for disabled and para-athletes here in Canada. Some more popular sports have more but for wheelchair fencing, we're really left with nothing,” said Lowthian. “For me to qualify for Paris, I need to go to a lot more competitions to end up qualifying. And that is very expensive.”

Without financial support from the Canadian Fencing Federation, Lowthian has turned to a GoFundMe campaign to gather the resources she needs to compete over the next year. This includes travel, competition entry fees, specialized equipment and maintenance.

“Because there are so few of us competing here in Canada, I'm the only one in my category and classification. I don't have anyone in Canada to train with,” said Lowthian. “So funds will go towards training camps just so that I can train with athletes that I compete against.”

Lowthian's GoFundMe has raised over $15,000 since it came online in early December, 2022, with a final goal of $50,000.

As the donations and support keep rolling in, Lowthian will keep swinging at her goal of Olympic glory.

And with all she's overcome to date, she will undoubtedly take her best stab at it.

Listen to the entire interview with Trinity Lowthian on The Sam Laprade Show below.

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