Paracanoeist and Team Visa athlete Jonathan White’s journey towards Paris 2024 qualification has been one of incredible resilience. After losing both legs above the knee and his right arm above the elbow in Afghanistan in 2010, he has gone on to become the first ever para-athlete to compete in a world level ocean race.
Jon is a Paris 2024 Team Visa athlete for Great Britain, a programme run by Visa for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls across the world. We spoke with Jon to find out more about his ambitions for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games and what being part of Team Visa means to him.
“Being able to compete in the Paralympic Games in Paris next year would be a dream come true. I’ve overcome so many challenges and pushed myself more than I would have thought possible since my accident. The opportunity to represent the disabled community and Great Britain on an international stage would mean the world to me.
I was serving as a Royal Marines officer in Afghanistan when I stood on a homemade landmine. I lost both legs and my right arm in the blast. I’ve always loved keeping fit and trying new sports, and I was determined my accident wouldn’t hold me back. I took up kayaking as part of my rehabilitation and fell in love. It’s physically demanding but also highly skilled, and the adrenaline rush of being out on the ocean is unmatched.
Being the first ever para-athlete to compete in a world level ocean race is something I will never forget. I even beat some able-bodied competitors. There’s currently no category for arm disabilities in the sport, so everyone I’m up against has both of their arms. I’m hoping my successes will change this – and inspire others with arm disabilities to try it out!
It takes absolute commitment to be able to compete at the highest level and have any chance of going to the Paralympic Games. I’m so grateful for my relationship with Visa which gives me the support I need to train full time as well as getting enough rest and recovery.
I’ve previously been more of an endurance athlete, so making the transition to the sprint race distances used in the Paralympic Games has been really tough – it’s a very different set of physical demands. Visa’s support has been instrumental in helping me achieve this.”