Brock Kinesiology student headed to Rio Paralympics

Brock University will have a second representative at the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Erica Scarff, a 19-year-old Mississauga native, qualified for the Games in the 200m paracanoe event at the Paralympics, which will start two weeks after the Olympics wrap up. Scarff will join Jessica Lewis, who will represent her native Bermuda at the Paralympics in the short-distance track events.

Scarff’s ticket to Rio was secured when she finished sixth at the Paracanoe World Championships in Germany earlier this summer.

“I was pretty excited, but I think it was a big relief,” she said. “The year before I was really close to qualifying, but I missed it by about half a second.”

After I lost my leg I was still wanting to compete and train in sports.

In 2008, Scarff was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is the same type of bone cancer that Terry Fox suffered from. A competitive gymnast, Scarff had her leg amputated in early 2009.

“After I lost my leg I was still wanting to compete and train in sports, but I didn’t think gymnastics was something I could really do at the same level,” said Scarff, who has continued to coach gymnastics.

Her introduction to paddling came in 2013 when she met someone in the sport while at a prosthetic clinic in Toronto. Scarff was invited to try canoekayak and she instantly knew she’d found her next sport.

By 2014 she was competing at a high level and she took the second semester of her second year at Brock off so that she could train in Florida.

The goal was simple and singular: qualify for Rio.

I’m young, so I don’t think there’s any pressure to win a medal.

“Since I came so close (in 2015) there was a little more expectation this year,” she said. The Paracanoe World Championships in Germany were the last chance to earn a spot on the Paralympic team.

With the sixth place finish, she earned her spot to race in the KL3 200 metre race of ParaCanoe, an adaptive version of the flatwater sprint canoe kayak sport. This marks the first time the sport has been part of the Paralympics.

Scarff will spend the next month training both in Toronto and on the 1976 Olympic course in Montreal before leaving for Rio on Sept. 10. She’ll start racing a few days later.

“This is my first Paralympics and the first time paracanoe is featured. I’m young, so I don’t think there’s any pressure to win a medal,” she said. “Of course that’s what every athlete is aiming for, but I’ll just be happy to get a good time (in the race) and hopefully stay in my position or move up.”

After Rio, she’ll return to Brock for her third year in the Kinesiology program, but her sights are already set on the 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

Erica Scarff

Brock University student Erica Scarff has qualified for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio for ParaCanoe.

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