By Alexus Barnhart
BRAMPTON, ONTARIO—- In his backyard, you can find Ryan Bennett training for his passion. Catchy pop music plays in the background while a family member’s dog spectates excitingly as Bennett practices shot put and discus throws for his next competition.
In 2003, Bennett decided to try out shot put and discus after his para hockey team told him to give it a try.
“I get so many benefits out of it: physical and mental strength, confidence, competitiveness and most importantly, fun,” Bennett said.
Maintaining physical strength is important for everyone, but it’s particularly important for Bennett because of his cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is defined as “a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function, cerebral palsy is actually caused by brain damage,” according to cerebralpasly.org.
For Bennett that means his leg muscles are tight, causing poor posture and balance and pain in his legs. Adaptable physical activity helps improve both his pain and his posture.
When he throws in competitions, instead of standing to throw, Bennett sits in a lifted chair to help him throw farther.
Over the years, his love for throwing has given Bennett the opportunity to travel the world and encourage others to have the confidence to compete despite their physical differences.
“It’s really important to see the positives in failure and success I’m grateful I can compete and try and set a good example for others with cerebral palsy,” he said.
Bennett most recently competed in the CP World Games in Saint Cugat, Spain, in 2018. He placed eighth in his track class.
When he’s not competing in athletics, Bennett is a program support assistant at a children’s treatment center for treatment and disabilities.
“It’s a fun time,” he said. “The second I’m not representing the organization the best way I can, is the day they should fire me.”
It’s clear, Bennett carries an unwavering passion for everything he does in life, by how positive and well-spoken he is in conversation.
The athlete’s friends would agree.
“He has always had a passion for competition and works out religiously like a beast. [I’m] very proud of him,” said Cam Jenkins, a friend of Bennett’s for 15 years now. The two meant through Cruiser’s Sports for those with disabilities.
When the friends aren’t playing sports together, you can find them going to Toronto Argonauts football games, karaoke games, or getting a few drinks together.
Jenkins said one of his favorite things about his friend is his “goofy personality.”
Over the course of their friendship, Jenkins has also learned a lot from Bennett’s natural demeanor.
“ [Bennett has taught me] to remember to have fun and not sweat the small stuff,” Jenkins said.
In the future, Bennett hopes to get the opportunity to get out and throw again. But until then, he plans to continue to train and talk about sports and his dream to one day move to Florida after spending occasional summers there with his mom to train in warmer weather.
“I always talk about the house I’m gonna buy when I retire and move to Florida,” Bennett said in his goofy chuckle. “In all seriousness though, I have a piece of my heart in Florida.”