MADE OF MEDALS

CANUCK LAKATOS CRUISES,

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

At 37 years old, and as the owner of a mas­sive world and Par­a­lympic medal col­lec­tion, Canada’s Brent Lakatos had con­sid­ered call­ing it a ca­reer after these World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships.

Then a funny thing hap­pened. He got faster.

Now the wheel­chair racer from Dor­val, Que., is poised to climb the medal podium at the world cham­pi­onships which open Fri­day at Lon­don’s Olympic Sta­dium.

“There was a re­ally good chance that this was go­ing to be my last sea­son,” Lakatos said from Lon­don. “But then with the times that I posted this year, I don’t want it to be my last sea­son, so now 2020 (Tokyo Par­a­lympics) is def­i­nitely on the ta­ble.”

Lakatos owns 12 world medals, and seven Par­a­lympic medals in dis­tances span­ning 100 to 800 me­tres.

He’s added an­other race to his reper­toire this sea­son, break­ing the world record in the 1,500 last month in Switzer­land dur­ing a heady 10 days that saw him wheel to five world record times.

“It’s al­ways been my favourite event, since I started back in 1996, just be­cause it’s a re­ally fun dis­tance, it’s not too long but there’s lots of strat­egy and stuff go­ing on,” Lakatos said.

“But it’s the first year that I’ve been com­pet­i­tive in it.”

The 1,500, he said, re­quires a de­cent av­er­age speed, a good strat­egy, the abil­ity to ac­cel­er­ate into a sprint — all the while avoid­ing the al­most in­evitable crashes.

“I raced the 1,500 here last year at the An­niver­sary Games and I did crash. Some of my shoul­der is still on the track some­where,” Lakatos said with a laugh.

Like the re­lent­less evo­lu­tion of For­mula 1 rac­ing, Lakatos con­stantly tin­kers with his equip­ment. This sea­son, new gloves have been a game-changer. Wheel­chair rac­ers don’t grip the wheels so much as punch them. He has a pair of “soft gloves” made of foam and rub­ber for the sprints, and he added a pair for the 800 and 1,500 made of hard plas­tic moulded to the hands with rub­ber on top.

“They trans­fer the en­ergy of your push much more ef­fi­ciently into the rim, and so you can’t ac­cel­er­ate as quickly, but over a longer dis­tance, they don’t use as much en­ergy once you get up to a good speed,” he ex­plained. “These gloves have opened up the 800 and 1,500 and next year I might try do­ing the 5,000, be­cause they’re just so much bet­ter for dis­tance.”

Lakatos, who races in a white hel­met with a black maple leaf, lives in Lough­bor­ough, Eng­land — about a two-hour drive from Lon­don — with his wife, Bri­tish long jumper Stef Reid. He’s been a para­plegic since he was six, when he fell and slid into the boards while skat­ing. The in­jury didn’t seem se­ri­ous at first, but he woke up the next morn­ing to pain and numb­ness. A bro­ken blood ves­sel had put pres­sure on his spinal col­umn.

He’s rac­ing the 100, in which he won gold at last sum­mer’s Rio Par­a­lympics, plus the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 at the worlds, which run through July 23.

He opens Sun­day with the heats and hope­fully fi­nals of both the 200 and 1,500.

He’s the only com­peti­tor do­ing both those events.

“It’s go­ing to be fun,” he in­sisted.

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