In her week at the Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games, Charlotte Bolton made her hometown proud.
Bolton, 18, placed sixth overall in both of her events, F41 shot put and F41 discus.
The Tillsonburg athlete, the youngest member of this year’s Canadian Paralympic track and field team, started with shot put on the 27th (and the evening of August 26 in Canada) and had to overcome some nerves.
“It didn’t go exactly as planned,” Bolton admitted. “I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I messed up my first two throws.”
Over-rotating caused both throws to go ‘out of sector.’ It meant she had to get her third throw into the target area to qualify for the Final 8 round.
“They only take the top eight for the next round, so I had a good chat with my coach (Richard Parkinson) about relaxing and just putting one out there. Don’t need a far one, just need one in.”
And that’s what she did.
“I’m super proud of myself that I managed to relax a bit and pull one together. And then keep building from there because they just got further and further and further.”
She didn’t get the new shot put personal best she was hoping for, but she was pleased to get back to throwing her ‘average.’
“After that third throw I improved every throw so I’m super happy about that.”
Canadians watched her compete in discus on the 31st (when Bolton competed on the morning of Sept. 1 in Tokyo), again placing sixth.
“I threw my second best competition throw ever… very happy with that. I was much, much less nervous. I definitely felt way more relaxed going into it and I feel like you could see it.”
She also had English-speaking competition in the discus event, unlike shot put, which helped calm her nerves.
“There was a fair bit of friendship (during the competition). People were cheering each other on and clapping and making jokes. It’s just that during shot put I didn’t understand what they were saying, but people were generally pretty friendly.”
It did get intense at times, however. Bolton recalled the Tunisia athlete who won discus gold.
“She broke the world record, then another girl broke the world record. Then they both broke it again. It was her last throw and she had to beat the world record again. She pulled it together and threw like 37.92 (metres), it was insanity because before that day it was only 35-something. So that was pretty intense.”
Bolton figured she was relatively close to 4th-5th, considering a gust of wind at the right moment could affect distances by up to three metres.
COVID-19 regulations were strict during their time in Japan, first training in Gifu, then competing in Tokyo.
“I had a great time, but I didn’t get to see much of Japan. In Gifu, for the health and safety of the citizens, we were pretty isolated. If we were in a public place we had a specific bathroom that was only to be used by us, so we didn’t run into anyone, anywhere.”
Not only was she able to train in Gifu, and meet her coach who had left for the Summer Olympics weeks earlier, she was able to bond with Canadian athletic teammates before heading to Tokyo.
Staff at the Paralympics (and Gifu) was amazing, she said.
“The nicest people I’ve ever met, I’ve never waved so much in my life because every time you’d leave or come back, or go anywhere, they were smiling and waving at you with both hands. “Welcome back! Did you have a good time?’ They were honestly the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
As expected, Bolton expanded her Japanese vocabulary, learning some new words including Dōitashimashite, which is ‘you’re welcome.’
“One of the staff taught it to me.”
Now that she’s back in Canada, Bolton will be focusing on first-year studies at York University (international biomedical sciences) and competing with the varsity team.
“I’m not sure what’s happening with the World Dwarf Games, they keep being delayed. But if I were to go, I probably wouldn’t throw. I think I would volunteer to coach a little.”
In Canada, she’s competing against herself in the F41 classification, so it made the Paralympic experience even more special.
“The experience of actually getting to go up against people in my own class and see how I compare in a ‘real competition’… because before that I was just throwing against myself and comparing the measurements against what they’ve been throwing this year. It’s not the same feeling, it’s not the same at all. That girl from Tunisia who broke the world record, if she had been throwing by herself she probably wouldn’t have thrown that 37.92 and would have left it at that first world record she got because she had nothing pushing her to go that much further. So it really is amazing to be competing against people in my own class.”
Bolton, who returned to Canada Friday, now has one month off from training, then she’s back at it.
“The goal is to definitely do it (Paralympics) again. I’m not totally positive what the intensity of training will look like, considering it’s three years. But I will show up as much as it will take to go again.”
Bolton was one of 55 up-and-coming Canadian athletes from both summer and winter sports selected by Petro-Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Coaching Association of Canada to receive a 2021 Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence (FACE) Program grant. The funding is courtesy of Petro-Canada.
Athletes and their coaches are awarded $10,000 ($5,000 directly to the athlete and $5,000 to their coach) to help athletes and their families with expenses like equipment and competition and training travelling.
Not-for-profit organization CanFund (canadianathletesnow.ca) announced they were giving Bolton $6,000.
She received some training funding from Ontario’s Quest for Gold program. And she has also received money from the Athletics Canada’s CAPP program, which mostly went toward a training camp in California in April.
Bolton thanked her parents, Bridget and Scot, and her sister/social media manager Madelyn, as well as her coach Richard Parkinson, who will continue coaching her at York.