Bernard Lapointe closer to Paralympic Games dream

Canadian Paralympic Committee

June 21, 2019

“It won’t be easy to get that spot for the Paralympic Games.''



OTTAWA – Bernard Lapointe has been an avid sportsman his entire life. Even an unfortunate accident six years ago which left him an incomplete paraplegic couldn’t keep the 35-year-old Acadian from St-Léonard, N.B. from continuing to strive for excellence on the playing field.

Right now, his focus is on Para badminton, the latest addition to the official program of both the 2019 Parapan American Games this August in Lima and the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Lapointe has been named to the Canadian team for Lima and is also chasing a top-eight world ranking to get his ticket for Tokyo.

“It won’t be easy to get that spot for the Paralympic Games,” admits the jovial Lapointe in his distinct ‘Acadian dialect’ French. “Two years ago, I was ranked eighth, so I have the potential. But everyone is working hard to get there.”

Ranking points are earned at international tournaments. Unfortunately, an infection earlier this year forced Lapointe to miss the first three tournaments of the season. He made his 2019 debut at a 40-country event in Ottawa where he reached the quarterfinals in the WH2 division.

Just before the Parapan Ams, he will compete at the world championships, then Lima before heading off to Asia for the rest of the year to play in China, Japan, Thailand and Australia.
Lapointe played badminton in high school but only took up the wheelchair version of the sport three years ago. He was already a nationally ranked wheelchair tennis player and also played Para ice hockey in the winter.

“I went to work and a couple of years after my accident I heard about Para badminton,” he said. ‘’I thought, ‘I used to be good at that’. Now it has given me a lot of great opportunities. 

“I already had the technique for the sport, it was the movements I needed to practice. When you play the Asian players that’s when you realize that you aren’t that fast. They have technique down better than us. So it’s fun to learn how to improve in that area and you learn how you can make small adjustments to your chair that can make differences that nobody realizes.”

In wheelchair Para badminton, the court is reduced 50% sideways making it rectangular. That creates blazing fast exchanges and forces players in the wheelchair to demonstrate amazing flexibility to retrieve shots. Competition is also held for amputees, players with cerebral palsy and small stature players.

“Some exchanges can go up to 50 hits,” said Lapointe. “Even with the reduced space we have to move our wheelchairs and stay inbounds. I can tell you the reaction time is limited. It requires a lot of training and I spend a lot of time in the gym trying to get stronger and faster.”

The Parapan Ams will be the first time Lapointe wears the Canadian uniform at a major Games. He will compete in doubles with a player whose name will be familiar to long-time Paralympic Games fans: Richard Peter.

The 46-year-old Peter, from Duncan, B.C. competed at five Paralympic Games (1996 to 2012) in wheelchair basketball, earning three gold medals and a silver.  

“With Richard’s experience I’m not stressed,’’ said Lapointe, who trains at the University of Moncton with personal coach Mark LaForge. ‘’We room together and we talk a lot about everything. When you go to tournaments with someone who’s been there before, it makes it easier.’’

At the 2018 Pan Am Championships in Para badminton, also held in Lima, Lapointe won three bronze medals including one with Peter.

Lapointe was injured in an ATV accident permanently injuring one leg. His spinal cord was pinched but not severed. 

“I can walk with braces and crutches but not for long distances,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones so I can’t complain. I love sports and I want to stay involved in it for the rest of my life.”

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