By: Janik Shannon
His journey began after he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had his leg amputated back in 2003.
But today, John Leslie is living the dream that some would have called impossible a few years ago. Leslie, 20, is part of the Paralympic snowboard team and will be competing in 2014.
“Learning how to walk again was a pretty big adjustment so once I got that under my plate it was pretty much just progressing from there,” said Leslie, student in the business – management and entrepreneurship program at Algonquin.
“I started with walking then got into biking and the next year I started snowboarding again. So everything just kind of slowly progressed once I got my feet under me.”
Snowboarding for over seven years now, the progress that Leslie has made started back in high school. Competing at various schools on the A team, Leslie captured the interest of coach Cassandra Smith by mentioning he had an artificial leg. Right away she told him to contact Candice Drouin, his current coach, and from there he attended a race at Lake Louise, ranking fifth in the world and first in Canada.
Last June he tried out and made the Para National Team, then competed in France and out West during the 2011 – 2012 season.
“In May of this year we found out the sport was going to be in the 2014 Paralympics. Then I went out in June again, tried out for the Paralympic team and made it,” said Leslie. “It’s pretty sweet; it all happened pretty quickly.”
On top of training for the Olympics, Leslie has dedicated a part of his life to the Home Hardware in Arnprior, Ont., his hometown.
“Growing up with such a good experience with getting support from the community, I really want to give that back,” said Leslie. “I thought about all the factors and then I realized that ‘Hey if I become a Home Hardware owner I’m going to live in Arnprior, I’ll be home every night at 5 p.m. to have dinner with my kids and all those really important things.’ I love my job there now so why not stick with it?”
Currently in his seventh year, Leslie works there on weekends and when he is not training or in school.
“He’s extremely dedicated,” said Neil Slater, current owner of Home Hardware. “He’s always thinking of ways to improve sales, to improve the business. I’ve given him a lot more responsibility than someone else his age because he shows interest in the business.”
Leslie has always had the support of the community, his friends and his family throughout his experience.
“Foremost, we love him and support him no matter what he chooses to do in life,” said father Tim Leslie. “We like to think we are clearing the trail. We look after his tuition, and ensure he has a place to hang his hat…a home. As a parent, I am just happy he survived his ordeal and found a ‘new normal’. They say for every door that closes another opens. I am glad John is not afraid to go through those doors.”
Friend and classmate Carlo Mion, 19, has also given Leslie a helping hand over the course of their friendship. Team manager for www.durails.com, a website that displays lifestyle apparel brands, it will soon be featuring a page to introduce Leslie and his recent accomplishment.