Braedon Dolfo admits he was on pins and needles.
The 18-year-old — just weeks out of high school after graduating from Langley Secondary in June — was sitting at a Calgary restaurant on Saturday night, waiting to hear if he would be selected to represent Canada at this summer’s Paralympic Games in London.
“I had an idea I might make it, but I wasn’t fully sure,” Dolfo admitted.
“So I was a little nervous in that sense.”
And then the call came in, telling Dolfo that he would in fact wear the Maple Leaf on the world’s biggest stage.
Dolfo was selected to run for Canada in the T11-13 4×100 relay.
“Truthfully, it feels exhilarating,” he said.
Also chosen were Jonathan Dunkerley (Ottawa), Brandon King (Brampton) and Dustin Walsh (Coquitlam).
All four have varying degrees of visual impairment.
Dolfo is classified as a T13 and he describes his vision as peering through a straw, able to see straight ahead, but struggling to see peripherally. His vision is good enough that he will run against able-bodied athletes next season with the Trinity Western Spartans.
Walsh, who like Dolfo is a member of the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club, is a T11 — completely blind.
T11’s require the use of a guide runner while a T12 or T13 has the option.
Fort Langley’s Dylan Williamson, who has trained with Walsh for the past year, will attend in London as his partner’s guide runner.
A guide runner is tethered to their partner, and gives verbal direction when corners are approaching along the track, and so forth.
“The athletes headed to London have proven through their performances that they are able to compete with the best in the world on a consistent basis,” said Laurier Primeau, Athletics Canada’s Paralympics head coach, in a press release.
Primeau is also the coach of the Spartans track and field team.
Walsh and Williamson were seated with Dolfo at the Calgary restaurant when the call came in.
“We were all just very excited,” Dolfo said.
After celebrating with his friends, Dolfo said his first calls were to his family — his dad had watched him race but was driving back from Calgary — and then some friends, coaches, and his massage therapist.
“A few of the people who have helped me get this far,” Dolfo explained.
“Really, it is not just a one-man effort, it is a team effort and I am just happy to be here.”
Being named to the Canadian team is something Dolfo has dreamed about for a long time. But his being named to the team should come as little surprise given his growing international resume.
He has been a member of Canada’s para-national team since 2010 and currently holds the Canadian records in the long jump, high jump, 100m and 200m.
Last year, he won bronze in the high jump at the Paralympic world championships in New Zealand and another bronze in the 100m at the Para-Pan Games in Mexico.
The 22-year-old Williamson, who ran track in high school at Walnut Grove Secondary, has been working with Walsh for about a year.
“Going to London with him, I feel honoured,” Williamson said.
“This is absolutely incredible; I never expected to get this far this fast.”
He got into guide running through his former coach at Walnut Grove, Gary Lutes.
Williamson called the whole experience eye opening and the most fun he has ever had.
“Dustin has been able to teach me so much about track and field that I didn’t know before,” he said.
This will be the 29-year-old Walsh’s third Paralympic Games.
The plan is to remain in Langley and train until leaving for Ottawa in the middle of next month.
The Canadian team will leave for London on Aug. 21 and the Paralympic Games run Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.