Canadian wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos will cross the finish line of an excellent but exhausting Tokyo Paralympics in the men’s marathon Sunday.
But his job won’t be done quite yet.
The 41-year-old from Dorval, Que., who captured four medals in five events on the track in Tokyo – and has one more medal shot in the marathon – will carry Canada’s flag into Sunday’s closing ceremony at Olympic Stadium just hours later.
“It’s a huge honour. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m sure when I’m doing it, walking through the stadium with the flag on my chair, that’ll be something,” Lakatos said on a rare day off Friday.
“I think going through the motions part will be pretty difficult after a marathon,” he added with a laugh. “I’m hoping I still have some energy for that.
“I’ll be extremely excited, so that’ll help carry me through it.”
Lakatos’s closing ceremony honour comes a month after fellow track athlete Damian Warner carried Canada’s flag into the Olympic closing festivities after capturing gold in the decathlon.
Lakatos, who suffered a blood clot in his spine when he slid into the boards while skating at the age of six, has four medals in Tokyo for 11 total in his Paralympic career.
If there’s one bittersweet aspect to these Games, Lakatos said it’s that all four of his medals are silver.
“It’s been really great … to think about getting four medals, possibly five, is really amazing. And the more I think back on those medals, it’s something that I’m happy about,” he said. “But in its moment, each one is like, ‘Oh, so close to gold.’
“And I really want to get that gold and see our flag raised to the top.”
Lakatos, who’s competing in his fifth Paralympics, almost retired after the 2008 Beijing Games. But he had yet to win a medal, and he and his wife Stefanie Reid, a Para long jumper for Great Britain, decided another chance to perhaps climb the podium in London four years later was too good to pass up.
Eleven medals and three Paralympics later, Lakatos’s schedule in Tokyo was the toughest yet. All five of his track races included both heats and finals. And he added the marathon this time around.
He credited the Athletics Canada staff for keeping him in one piece.
“They’ve done everything possible to get me as hydrated, as much nutrition as possible, the transport back and forth, everything that they can possibly do, they’ve done,” he said. “And so that’s what’s made this even possible to attempt.”
Lakatos has raced in morning heats and evening finals virtually every day since the track began, getting back to the athletes village well after 9 p.m., and then showering, eating, receiving some therapy and winding down before bed for the next day’s 6 a.m. wakeup call.
“It’s definitely a very challenging schedule. And I don’t even think I realized that going in … and here, with everything else [COVID-19 protocols, etc.], it makes it a real challenge,” he said.
But it’s a challenge he relishes. Which is why he might stick around to compete in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
“It’s only three years away,” he said. “I’m not young. But I’m also not slowing down, I’m still improving, I was still able to get personal bests in these Games.”
He said he and his wife will take some time to ponder the future.
Lakatos won silver medals in the 100, 400, 800 and 5,000 on the Tokyo track.