Tanelle Bolt was not expecting to find love on her paddle and bike from Revelstoke to Nelson last summer, but she did.
“I was quite single and just taking a vacation in the woods,” she said with a laugh.
That ‘vacation’ involved kayaking down the Columbia River, across Upper Arrow Lake, then biking by hand crank along the Slocan Valley Rail Trail. The catch – Bolt has a severe spinal cord injury and cannot walk.
Bolt did the trip with another athlete, Ethan Krueger, who similarly is paraplegic. Also on the trip was filmmaker Jesse Schpakowski. Bolt and Schpakowski soon fell in love.
The goal of the trip was to raise awareness and create a documentary exploring what it means for people facing barriers to follow their passions.
While paddling across Slocan Lake, Bolt felt something similar to an “electric shock”.
“It was like the tension released when you break a screw in half, except it was through my whole body,” remembered Bolt.
Turns out, the titanium rods in her back had snapped due to wear and tear.
“You could hear the creaking and cracking. She sounded like a broken piece of furniture,” said Schpakowski.
Bolt stopped to make sure no blood and nothing was protruding. Once satisfied, she continued paddling and biking the remaining 80 km to Nelson.
Now, several months later Bolt is getting surgery to remove the rods.
Bolt injured her spine five years ago, jumping 60 feet from a bridge into a river on Vancouver Island. When she landed, Bolt said she must have hit debris.
“Could have been something as small as a pine cone or plastic bag,” she said in a previous interview with Black Press. The accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Schpakowski has launched a GoFundme to help Bolt with costs associated with the surgery, such as rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
Bolt leads an incredibly active life. According to the GoFundMe page, she is Canada’s first female wheelchair bodybuilder, bronze medal winner for Canada in adaptive surfing and the country’s only competitive paraplegic golfer.
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Staying on the bandwagon with this #motivationmonday Today I’m the one that could use the motivation… This photo was taken June 22. I broke the hardware (rod that fixes me T3-T9 is currently fractured above my T6) in my back the first week in July. This broken hardware is in my head and I have used it to avoid a handful of activities, staying out of the gym. All this lack of exercise has done is made me weak both physically and mentally. I have had 6 doctors appointments (doc, X-ray, doc, bloodwork, CT scan) and am no closer to knowing whether or not these broken pieces are able to be removed or have to be replaced. Just cut me open and solve the damn problem already! Today it’s time to say fuck it! The docs don’t seem concerned about it so why should I?!?! …and that deciding appointment doesn’t come until mid Nov 🤦♀️ #getintoit #screwitjustdoit #adaptivefitness #adaptiverecreation #wheelchairbodybuilding #cpa #sci #adaptdefy #tanellesjourney
Bolt is also an advocate for making the world a more accessible place for those with mobility challenges. Although Canada did pass the Accessible Canada Act last year, which aims to crack down on discrimination based on disabilities, the act has been heavily criticized. For example, the bill uses “may” rather than “shall” when describing government actions. This means in theory that the government is empowered to take action but not required to follow through. The act also allows the federal government to exempt organizations, including itself, from putting in accessibility measures.
Bolt said Canada is years behind other countries when it comes to legislation aimed at addressing accessibility.
Even the country Panama is more accessible to people with mobility problems than Canada said Bolt.
“I can get into far more businesses there than I can in Vancouver or Victoria.”
She continued that most businesses in Panama have a wheelchair ramp, which isn’t so in Canada.
|Bolt said after the trip last summer, she learned she was able to exceed what she thought her physical limits were. It gave her hope for the future. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
It’s time, she said, to stir the pot and make noise.
“It’s 2020, Canada is so far behind in inclusion.”
Schpakowski said no one is immune to disabilities. According to data from the Canadian government, the percentage of Canadians with mobile disabilities significantly increases with age.
“It can change in an instant. I could slip on ice tomorrow and break my back,” he said.
This spring, Bolt is aiming to put together an adaptive team of hand cyclists in the first adaptive gravel Gran Fondo from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.
Schpakowski said Bolt inspires him every day.
“She’s really opened my eyes in a big way. To an entirely new world I never knew.”
The documentary What If will premiere at the upcoming North Valley Mountain Film Festival in Silverton, B.C. on Feb. 29.