Ryan Rousell looking to make his mark in Tokyo

Canadian Paralympic Committee

July 14, 2021

Wheelchair fencer headed to first Paralympic Games

Wheelchair fencer Ryan Rousell in competition

SASKATOON – It was a natural progression for wheelchair fencer Ryan Rousell to compete at his first Paralympic Games, which gets underway in less than two months.

After all, the 24-year-old University of Saskatchewan computer science student advanced from the U23 world championships (earning a bronze in sabre) in 2018 to competing at the 2019 world championships, before the pandemic basically wiped out the 2020 and 2021 competitive seasons.

Besides maintaining his high training standards over the last 15 months, Rousell examined how he could fine-tune his preparation for the Games, what could perhaps give him an edge on his opponents if a match came down to a deciding point.

“I have high goals in Tokyo,” he said. ‘’I would definitely like to get into a medal position. I’ve really taken the time over the last few months to work on my mental game, my nutrition, and physical exercises as well. I am confident those adjustments will make a difference.”

While Tokyo will be his first Paralympic Games, Rousell has had an opportunity to travel to many countries for world championship and World Cup events in Europe and Asia. Adding to the aura of the Games for him is that Japan is his favourite country visited so far.

‘’Japan was memorable for me,” he said about his visit in December 2018. ‘’It’s the one that stands out the most and it was also the one I had the most fun at. To be going back again for the Games makes it even more exciting.”

Rousell was born premature and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy which weakened the right side of his body. It also affects his motor function and response time of his entire body.

‘’When I was a kid I had my hand in all kinds of sport,’’ he said. ‘’Hockey, basketball, softball, baseball, lacrosse, badminton and of course fencing.’’

He initially competed alongside non-wheelchair competitors in sport, including fencing. In fact he spent more than 10 years training for the combat sport at the Asquith Garde Fencing Club in Saskatchewan.

Rousell was initiated to fencing at age seven. He was first told about the possibilities of wheelchair fencing in 2014 at age 17 and initially he was reluctant. It was only around 2016 that he switched to the Para version of the sport. 

‘’The coaches tried to convince me for awhile,” he said.

That same year, wheelchair fencing national team member and Tokyo 2020 teammate Ruth Sylvie Morel was invited to scout some athletes in Saskatchewan. She noticed Rousell’s talents and invited him to a national camp as well as a competition overseas in Amsterdam with Team Canada.

‘’That was actually the first time I tried it was in front of Sylvie,” he said. ‘’And I just loved it and got addicted to it.’’

In 2018 he enjoyed his first major success. He earned a bronze medal in sabre at the U23 world championships then won gold with the same weapon at a World Cup event in Montreal. He made his senior worlds debut in 2019 and helped Canada to top-10 finishes in the team epee and team sabre competitions.

Now he’s ready to write the next chapter in his career and make his mark on the world’s biggest stage at the Paralympic Games.

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