Ben Brown has been driven by passion and speed as long as he can remember.
You could say he was born to race.
The race track quickly became his life. The race track changed his life forever.
August 20, 2006 started out like any other day in the life of a budding motor cross star. Brown took to the track to train for an upcoming event when the unthinkable happened.
“I was feeling out a brand-new track and I came up short on the jump.”
“I got thrown over the handle bars.”
“It’s rare to have the machine follow you, but it did, that’s when my ATV lawn darted me on my back,” Brown said.
“I was never knocked out.”
A half hour into his hour-long Ambulance wait, Brown quickly realized he had no sensation left in his legs.
“I went from being in a lot of pain and freaking out to finding out that night I would be paralyzed for the rest of life.”
The solitude of the bike, the sound, smell and speed of the track was where Brown, a few weeks shy of his 19th birthday at that time felt at peace and alive.
In a split second that all changed.
The solitude of the hospital room was where Brown had to come to grips with his new reality.
“Of course, I was in denial, I was on a bunch of pain meds, so my first two questions to the doctors was when am I going to walk and when can I race?”
Brown will never forget his doctor’s reply. “He told me ‘you will never walk again and why don’t you look into wheelchair racing,’” Brown recalled.
“At that time, I told the doctor where to go and how to get there. A week after the accident I was in denial. My assumption was that the surgery I was going to get to straighten my back out with a bunch of rods and stuff would allow me to walk.”
“When I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I slipped into a minor depression,” admitted Brown.
“Once the neurosurgeon informed me that I could still race ATV’s with some adaptations to the bike that’s really when my mood changed,” explained Brown.
Two weeks into rehab, Brown’s new life started to sink in even more.
“I realized that this is what it was going to be for the rest of my life and that I was going to have to make the best of it and push forward.”
“I really wanted to get back into sport and do the things I was doing prior to the accident, but in a modified way.”
Brown hasn’t stopped pushing the envelope since. The proud native of Cambridge, Nova Scotia tried his hand at a plethora of sports after the accident. Within 10 months of the injury, Brown was back on an ATV.
“I was starting to feel like myself.” One year after that, Brown raced motocross for the first time since the injury, unofficially becoming Canada’s first paraplegic to do so.
In less than three years after the accident Brown returned to the race track this time under his own power, with the will to become a champion.
A chance encounter in 2008 at a coffee shop became Brown’s pivot point.
“Ironically, I met my future coach, Ueli Albert at a Starbucks in Halifax, I did a fitness test for him in the following March, he convinced me to try wheelchair racing, two months after that I absolutely fell in love with it and I haven’t looked back since,” explained Brown.
A trip to the Canada Games for wheelchair racing was the next goal on his agenda.
“The goal at that time was just to stay in the lane,” admitted Brown.
Two years after that race Brown would qualify for Nationals.
“I’ve never looked at myself as being brave or anything, I looked at it as being normal,” Brown said when asked about finding the courage to get back into sports.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pro athlete,” Brown said proudly.
“If you would have told me that I was going to be one of Canada’s top wheelchair racers and athletes when I first got paralyzed, I wouldn’t have thought it that way at all.”
“I wouldn’t consider myself as a naturally talented athlete. My results come from a lot of grinding and chipping away at my goals,” stressed Brown.
Brown, 33, is unrelenting when it comes to accomplishing his goals and dreams.
“In the next three or four years I see myself hopefully competing for a medal in Paris and this year I hope to be representing Canada for the first time at the Paralympics.”
“I’m working toward making the World’s next year in Kobe, Japan and in 2023 I hope to redeem myself from the last Para-Pan-Am’s where I was expected to win medals and that didn’t happen, and hopefully hitting the podium at World’s.”
“I’m looking to accomplish a lot in a very short time, but I’m not afraid of the work that’s required to get there,” confessed Brown.
Living and training in a pandemic has had its share of ups and downs for Brown. Through it all he’s tried to stay positive and get after it the best he can. Brown continues to be very active on social media due in large part to remain connected to his family, friends and support staff while seeking out the best training opportunities across Canada and the United States.
Brown is quick to credit his entire team for providing him with amazing guidance on and off the track. “Elie Maroun and Travis Dorsey are my Strength Coaches, Darcy Worthylake and Monica Carroll are my Athletic Therapists and Angela Dufour is my Dietitian.”
“When the pandemic started and I realized that I would have to come home from Alabama, I sat down my team and asked them about isolation and how am I going to go about this so I don’t get out of shape.”
“For those 14 days I wasn’t able to touch my race chair, so I literally lifted weights for 11 of the 14 days I was isolated,” Brown said.
“I put in over 8,300 Km’s last year,” said Brown of his training regime.
“When all the competitions stopped last year I really worked on the things I needed to work on to get better.”
“I worked hard on my overall fitness, endurance, power endurance and technique.”
“My overall speed has picked up as well, it was really a blessing,” said Brown, who tried to make the best out of a very difficult time training in the middle of a global pandemic.
Brown like many other athletes across this is forced to work as hard off the track as on it when it comes to raising funds.
From the equipment to training, Brown is always searching to gain the upper hand. The local support for his fundraising efforts were outstanding this past year.
Brown believes 2021 is trending in the right direction.
“I feel like this year is going to be a breakout year.”
“Ueli and I are very confident how training is going, even with being away right now Ueli and I communicate every day.”
All of the sacrifices that come with training as a full-time athlete isn’t lost on Brown.
His love and passion for his sport has fueled his journey, but the support from his community and family is truly inspirational.
“My family, friends and the community really support me, it means a lot to me.”
“I love to volunteer in my community and share my message with kids.”
“Without my friends, family and coaches and really everyone involved whether it’s up front or behind the scenes it makes a huge difference, without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” said a reflective Brown.
From Brooklyn Street to the international and world stage, Ben Brown is getting after it every day in hopes of accomplishing his dream to represent his country at the Olympics.
Ben Brown was born to race, born to be a champion.
The race track to life and his sport continues to fuel the path to his dreams.