Home with the Halladays, Curtis hits the reset button
by Randy Pascal
Given all that has transpired in the life of Sudbury’s Curtis Halladay in the past two years, it would be hard to fault the 21 year old
paralympic rower for taking advantage of this time of year to “hit the re-set button”, as he terms it.
Not that anyone should expect much of a period of relative inactivity. There are far too many goals still to conquer.
A world record holder in indoor rowing, Halladay helped the Canadian four-mixed team to a bronze medal performance in Rio de Janeiro this past
September, just the latest accomplishment in a rapid rise to success for the graduate of Collège Notre-Dame.
“For me, there was so much growth involved, just the whole experience of the Paralympics,” stated Halladay recently, taking a break from his training at
Laurentian University. “One of the things that stands out most for me is that first race, that moment of uncertainty when you’re kind of looking
around, and you don’t know what speeds people are doing.”
“I experienced something similar at the World Championships in 2015,” he added. But as much as Halladay has expanded his horizons, as an athlete,
there has been an equivalent parallel growth as a person, now immersed in a world he could not have possibly imagined at the time of the motor-cross
accident in 2012, one that would leave Halladay dealing with the effects of drop-foot, paralyzed below the knee.
“You get to meet so many new people from different countries, you create connections, you make new friends,” he said. “Who knows when I will be
travelling on my own, but now I’ve got these connections, the chance to meet up with these people all over the world. I think that’s pretty cool.”
For Halladay, the social benefits take a clear-cut backseat to his athletic aspirations, dreams that have blossomed further based on his development in
the sport over the course of the past two years.
“My goal has always been to try-out for the able-bodied team,” asserted Halladay. “That’s been on my mind for a little while. There are standards set
out, and I’m close or within those standards. I’ve still got time to make improvements before the May trials, so it’s definitely realistic.”
The late spring tryouts will target the team that will represent Canada at the World U23 Championships taking place in Bulgaria later in the
summer. The Northern Ontario talent is trying to remain versatile, with Rowing Canada ultimately tasked with determining the breakdown of sweeping
rowers (only one oar) versus scullers (two oars).
“I don’t necessarily prefer one over the other, but I tend to be a little bit better at sweeping, moreso because that’s what I’ve done a lot in the past
few years, training for Rio. It kind of benefits me having one leg that is stronger than the other.”
While much of the credit for his achievements to date lies with Halladay himself, his willingness to put in the time and effort since first being
approached about para-rowing by Laurentian University coach Amanda Schweinbenz, there has also been a particularly special kinship that has taken
root between Halladay and teammate Andrew Todd, who hails from Thunder Bay.
“When I first attended the training centre (in Victoria, B.C) in late 2014, I really had no sweeping experience at all,” recalled Halladay. “It’s a
completely different style of rowing. That was a huge adjustment period for me. Andrew and I would row pairs during the winter time – he basically taught
me how to sweep.”
“A coach can help you out tremendously, but having someone in the boat with a ton of sweeping experience with you, being able to correct things and
allow you to feel the change at the same time, well…..it wouldn’t have been the same otherwise,” Halladay continued.
It was in this environment that the well-spoken former multi-sport athlete would flourish, taking full advantage of the fact that his arrival coincided
with a coming out party, of sorts, for the Canadian para-rowing program.
“The thing that is kind of special about the path that I took is that para-rowing is still in an evolution process, a sport on the rise,” he noted.
“It’s improving every day, and it’s encouraging to see that. It’s been a very, very good opportunity for me, because I was able to get into the program
“Training three times a day with all of these Olympic athletes (the Victoria training centre is home to Rowing Canada’s Open Men’s teams) really puts
you in a place for optimal growth. You’re all in one spot, pursuing the same goals.”
“Just being in that environment where everyone is pushing each other, that’s so important,” Halladay added. “And I look at Andrew, and his perseverance,
and it’s super inspiring. It helps me get through the hard days.”
“And then seeing all of the guys on the able-bodied teams, because they’re at where I would like to get to – it’s great.” And it’s the perfect place for
Curtis Halladay, now that his personal training button has been re-set.