Arnold Boldt was the first Canadian Paralympic athlete to become famous.
He first amazed Canadians in 1976 when he won gold medals in the high jump and long jump at the Paralympic Games in Toronto. They were the first of seven Games titles and eight medals overall for the now 65-year-old who grew up on a Saskatchewan farm.
In 1980 at the Games in Arnhem, Netherlands, he set the world record for a leg amputee in the high jump soaring 1.96 metres. It still stands to this day.
He is a Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame inductee and, along with Eugene Reimer, he was the first inductee into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Boldt competed at six Paralympic Games, five Games from 1976 through to 1992, then returned in Para cycling at London 2012. Below he shares some of his memories of competing for Canada.
What did it mean to you to represent Canada at the Paralympic Games?
I had a dream as a child that I would like to compete for Canada in athletics with others in the world who were single, above-knee amputees. When that became a reality in 1976, it was the most amazing experience to actually be a part of the very first Paralympics in Canada, competing with athletes from around the world. Standing on the podium with the Canadian flag being raised, and O Canada being sung, tugged at the heartstrings. This was the pinnacle for me. And what was so interesting to me is how many of us from around the world had independently figured out the unique high jump technique of diving over the bar headfirst!
What are some of your favourite memories from competing for Canada?
The athletes and coaches I met from around the world, sharing life stories, talking about training, laughing.
What is your proudest sporting achievement?
There are two. First, I set a Paralympic and world record of 1.96m in high jump in Arnhem (1980): the record still stands, and, I believe, it is the oldest extant record of either the Paralympic or Olympic records. Later I reached heights of 2.06m (outdoor) and 2.08m jumping for the University of Manitoba Bisons. Second, making the Canadian team for London 2012 as a Para cyclist at the age of 55. As an athlete, I've done nothing more difficult, fun and satisfying than that.
What are you up to now?
I have been involved in post-secondary education and skills training for most of my professional career in various senior leadership and executive roles, mainly at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and currently at Red River College Polytechnic as the Executive Director, Policy & Projects. I remain quite active as a cyclist and look forward to preparing for and participating in some Gran Fondos (big rides) later this year.
What is your message to upcoming Paralympians?
Work hard, trust the four-year cycle and the training plan. If something goes off track (illness, broken bone), get up, re-group, re-jig, re-focus, carry on. Enjoy the ride. What you learn through training, planning and focus will do you well throughout life.
Current favourite TV show: Shantaram
Favourite summer activity: Cycling – gravel, road, mountain bike
Hero: Terry Fox
Favourite hobby: Woodworking – building furniture