Lumby’s Logan Leach has been named to Canada’s alpine skiing squad that will compete at the 2022 Beijing Paralympics in China. (Contributed)

Lumby’s Logan Leach has been named to Canada’s alpine skiing squad that will compete at the 2022 Beijing Paralympics in China. (Contributed)

Lumby’s Leach skis way to Paralympics

Logan Leach, 19, named to Canada’s alpine skiing team that will compete at Beijing Paralympics

The day Lumby’s Logan Leach was told his eyesight had deteriorated to the point he couldn’t play his favourite sport, hockey, anymore “sucked.”

He couldn’t play because of Stargardt disease which, according to blindness.org, “is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. The progressive vision loss associated with Stargardt disease is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the central portion of the retina called the macula.”

So it was suggested to Leach to try skiing. That, too, sucked.

At first.

Now, Leach has sucked up the diagnosis to the point where he loves being on two boards and will represent Canada in alpine skiing next month at the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing, China.

Leach was among the 11 racers and two guides named to the Canadian Paralympic alpine skiing squad Friday. His own guide, Julien Petit of Quebec, is also on the team. Petit guides Leach along the course in skiing competitions.

“I’d known for a while that I had made the team, my family, Julien, close friends, they all knew and were sworn to secrecy, but it was annoying not to be able to tell anyone until it was officially announced,” laughed Leach, who leaves for China on Friday, Feb. 25.

“Now, I’ve had so many people come up to me, congratulating me, sending me messages, asking how it’s going. It’s really cool, and I’m so happy to be on the Canadian squad.”

That also goes for his guide, Petit. They are, said Leach, a team.

“He sticks with me and having him there is a big plus for a smallish team,” said Leach “Julien is all-go all the time. We’re a team. It’s a cool thing in what is really an individual sport. He’s my eyes on the course.”

Leach is one of two B.C. skiers named to the team. The other is West Vancouver’s Mollie Jepsen, the breakout star of the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. She won gold, silver and two bronze medals in her Paralympics debut.

Five skiers are returning from the 2018 PyeongChang Games roster, including Jepsen, Mac Marcoux, and Alana Ramsay, alongside Alexis Guimond and Frederique Turgeon.

Six athletes will be making their Paralympic debuts: Leach, Petit, Katie Combaluzier, Michaela Gosselin, Tristan Rodgers (guide for Marcoux), and Brian Rowland.

Leach is the youngest member of the Canadian squad at age 19 (with guide Petit). He said he could fill a book with the amount of people he could thank for helping him reach the Paralympics.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Julien, my parents (Mike and Kim), my family and my friends have all been super supportive,” he said. “The Silver Star Adaptive Sports Program is where I learned to ski. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.

“And I’d like to thank a woman named Anna Carter. She was my EA (education assistant) in school. She took my notes and she talked to me all the time.”

The Para alpine skiing competitions will take place March 5-13 in Beijing, with five races per category: downhill, Super-G, super combined, slalom, and giant slalom.

Vernon Paralympian veteran Josh Dueck is Canada’s chef de mission for 2022 in Beijing.

“I am beyond thrilled to congratulate each and every member of Canada’s Para alpine ski team on qualifying for the Paralympic Games,” said Dueck. “I know this team has been through a lot of challenges over the past few years, but they have consistently shown their resiliency and dedication, and have been so impressive in their preparation for Beijing.

“With leaders like Mac and Mollie at the helm alongside a very exciting group of new athletes on the journey to making their mark on the international scene, it is going to be so fun to watch all 11 skiers race at the Games. I will be behind them the entire way and know Canada will be cheering them on.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday, Feb. 22, from the original to add comments from Leach

READ MORE: WATCH: Lumby skier making tracks for Beijing Paralympics

READ MORE: Lumby’s Logan Leach named to national ski team

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