In July 2010, elite mountain biker Justin Johnson was biking down Whistler Mountain on a route he’d done “probably 100 times.” That day, however, something went wrong. He was thrown from the bike, breaking his T4, T5 and T6 vertebrae.
As he waited on the mountain for help to arrive, he received some important advice from a member of the bike patrol.
“He said, ‘Whatever you’ve done to yourself is done. You’ve got to move forward,’” recalls Johnson. “It made sense. Whatever you did, you can’t go backwards.”
The advice became a mantra for Johnson. When he was introduced to wheelchair sports at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Center through Bridging the Gap’s weekly multi-sport program, Justin found a new focus to help get his life back on track: wheelchair sports. Once discharged, he took part in many Bridging the Gap Have a Go days in multiple wheelchair sports, including wheelchair racing, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair basketball, however, quickly became his passion. He began participating on a regular basis and, thanks to his athletic drive and his dedication, found himself on a fast-track to the national team. Participating in wheelchair basketball, he says, has changed his life post-injury.
“I’m probably healthier than I’ve ever been in my life,” said Justin. “Now I have life. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see that I can possibly go to the World Juniors and possibly the Paralympics, so there’s something to work towards.”
This March, Justin took a major step in his Paralympic journey. Less than three years after his spinal cord injury, he was named to the U23 Junior Wheelchair Basketball Team and represented his country at the Americas Zone Qualifiers in Mexico. The team finished with a gold medal. Justin is now looking to get a full-ride scholarship to play varsity wheelchair basketball in the USA. The future is looking bright for this 22-year-old.
Justin’s story was recently captured in the amateur documentary “Bouncing Back.”
Justin Johnson is just one of many people with disabilities to start his wheelchair sports career through the Bridging the Gap program. We’re proud to see how far he’s come since his early days at our weekly multi-sport program at G.F. Strong and we can’t wait to see where his passion and dedication will take him. If you want to start your own wheelchair sports career, Bridging the Gap is here to help. Click here for upcoming events in your area.