Six years ago Charlotte Bolton wrote and composed Strong, a song she played live during the Summer Daze concert series in Tillsonburg.
Bolton, who was soon to be 12, said at the time that she wrote the song for “people who don’t believe they can do stuff, because maybe people have told them so before…”
Her song still resonates today. Bolton, now 18, is a Canadian Paralympic athlete and will be competing in discus and shot put at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, August 27 – September 5 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee and Athletics Canada announced on Friday that 16 athletes will represent Canada in track and field events, including Bolton who is the youngest team member.
“The truth is, I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life,” said Bolton, who holds three national F41 records, in a Paralympic Committee release. “As soon as I was told that the Paralympics were delayed until 2021, I had it in my head that I was going to go. There was no way I would have made it with the level I was at in 2020, but I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into improving this year to qualify even though the original plan was Paris, not Tokyo. It’s really gratifying to see that the hard work I, my coaches, and all the other people supporting me have put in pay off in the end.
“I’m fairly new to this sport, but I’ve worked really hard. I guess hard work pays off.”
Since the late June Canadian Paralympic Track and Field Trials in Montreal, Bolton has been training at home in Tillsonburg and with the Woodstock Legion Athletic Club. Last weekend she competed at provincials.
“It went well, no new PBs (personal bests),” said Bolton. “I’m at the beginning of a new training cycle, so increased weight training and stuff, and throwing typically goes down.”
Over the next two weeks, she will continue with lighter training, hopefully leading to peak performances in Tokyo.
Her coach, Richard Parkinson, has been at the Tokyo Olympics with two Canadian athletes, and Bolton has been tracking those athletes, as well as friends she has competed with and against over the last couple of years. Bolton is ranked fourth in the world in F41 discus and sixth in shot put. All of the 16 Canadian Paralympic athletes are ranked at least Top 8 in the world.
“From what I know I will have to throw over my personal best to podium (win a medal), but there is always a chance. People PB all the time at high stakes competitions. So my goal is always to win… I’m a bit competitive,” she added with a laugh.
“I’d say (a personal best) is closer in shot put than discus, but it’s not uncommon for it to drop a couple metres and then spike back up.”
As a Canadian Paralympic athlete, Bolton has received new gear and clothes including a closing ceremony jean jacket, opening ceremony clothes, competition clothes, and podium outfit.
“So much clothes, it’s pretty awesome!”
Reaction to hearing about Bolton going to Japan has been enthusiastic over the last few days.
“Everyone in town has been wishing me good luck, we had an exchange student a couple years ago and she wished me good luck. The mayor came by and dropped off some pins and a Tillsonburg hoodie. It’s just been an outpour of support.”
If you’d like to wish Bolton well, leave a message on her Instagram @charlotte.bolton.throws.
“If I were to tell the fans at home one thing it would be to dream big,” said Bolton in the committee’s website release. “Going to the Paralympics at age 18 wasn’t in my plans two years ago. But someone said maybe, and I said yes. Since then, going to the Paralympics has been the biggest dream I’ve had. You’re never too old, and you’re never too young to have big dreams.”
Her statement resembles the chorus from Strong, which she also played at a Paralympic event in Toronto six years ago.
“I’m not big, I’m not tall, but I know I’m strong enough.”