“I’m excited, but also nervous,” Borgella said during a Sunday afternoon phone interview.
The 18-year-old Rockland native has just finished one big adventure in her young life as part of the Class of 2021 from Saint Francis Xavier Catholic High School in Hammond. She was still feeling the exhilaration of being a graduate as she spoke about her next big adventure as part of Team Canada at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“I love travelling,” she said, then giggled as she outlined her plans for exploring Tokyo during her free time. “There’s a lot of things I want to do there. I want to go to all the stores. I want to meet with the people, and see things, and try all the different types of sushi.”
On the track
Borgella competes in the 100-metre, 200-metre, and long jump events for athletes with vision impairment. She has Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). The term covers a group of inherited diseases that affect the retina during early childhood, causing severe vision loss or blindness. For Borgella, LCA resulted in astigmatism that impairs her ability to see objects at a distance.
But LCA doesn’t slow her down when it comes to running. Borgella has been involved in track and field since she was 15.
“I was always doing sports,” she said. “I love running and I love being competitive. I would actually do all the events just to see what I liked doing.”
Her coaches with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club advised her to focus on three primary events for competition. That was a bit of a disappointment because Borgella was looking forward to trying the hurdles “though that would have been a stretch.”
She has no problem with the running and the leaping but her eyesight makes it difficult for her to gauge the distance between successive hurdles fast enough to prepare herself for every leap. She can do a hurdle course but never fast enough to be a real competitor in the event.
Still, she is quite proud of what she can do, whether it’s the hurdles or sprinting to the finish in the 100-metre. Her best time in the latter event is 13.01 seconds during a June practice session. Her best time in the 200-metre is 27.05 seconds.
Those times, along with a personal best of 4.15 metres in the long jump earned her a Team Canada berth for the 2021 Games. Earlier this year she had to go to the United States for her official certification as a Paralympic athlete. The certification took place in Arizona during one of the hottest periods for spring in that desert state.
“It was really so hot,” she said. “It was new for me. I’ve never had to run in such extremely hot weather.”
Borgella looks forward to her Tokyo adventure. The one thing that makes her nervous is the thought of competing against other athletes who may be as fast as she is, or even a bit faster.
Her coaches tell her to “think positive” and not worry about how fast anyone else is. That works for her.
“My main objective is that I love the sport,” she said. “I am a competitive person, and I don’t like to lose. I will aim for the top, and try for at least a personal best, and just have fun.”
After Tokyo, Borgella’s next adventure is attending the University of Ottawa as a social sciences major. She is signed up for the Conflict Studies and Human Rights program.
“My dream is to become a mediator,” she said. “I want to help people solve problems.”