When Walter Grant-Stuart finished his time trial in the men’s Para cycling C5 in Tokyo on 31 August, he became Guyana’s first Paralympic athlete. His participation is a symbol that he hopes will inspire and drive the growth of Para sports in his country.
“It is important for me to be able to represent my country for the first time. This is a stepping stone for other athletes to come and participate in different sports, and strive to get qualified for the next Paralympic Games for my country Guyana,” said Grant-Stuart, who ended 13th in the time trial.
“It will inspire other athletes, not only for cycling but for other sports.”
Since losing his right arm in a motorcycle accident in 2008, Grant-Stuart initially rode against able-body cyclists until his Para debut in a road race in Montreal in 2018. His swift rise on the international circuit gained him qualification for Tokyo 2020.
“I feel wonderful. It’s something new for me so I’m really happy to be a part of the Paralympic Games. I’m humble,” he said at the Fuji International Speedway after the race.
Outside of sport, Grant-Stuart works as a local firefighter and has to find time to train around this. “I am a full time firefighter. But fitness is an important part of my life as part of the fire department as well.”
His role as a firefighter is important not only for fitness and being part of his community, but for supporting his career as an athlete. Indeed while training in South Florida, USA, before coming to Tokyo a fundraiser was set up to support him with equipment.
“Most of my funds that I work for go into cycling and preparing for cycling. I now have a time trial bike, I recently purchased this bike so I am now getting used to the bike. It is mostly my funds, as well as a small amount that I get from the sports commission. It’s not much, but it’s a help to assist me.”
Despite the difficulties in juggling work and training, and needing to find creative ways to finance his competition, Grant-Stuart says he feels supported to succeed. “I have a strong support circle with my wife, and also my family. I have a very good coach, Ivan Dominguez, who really drives me in everything that I do."
Heavy rains have recently overcome Guyana leading to flooding in Georgetown where Grant-Stuart lives. “The flood affected the houses and stuff but my family is ok and that’s the most important thing.
"My country is not short of courage," Grant-Stuart said.