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Elora skateboarder eyeing Olympics despite mystery illness


A competitive skateboarder from Elora has his sights set on representing Canada at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, but a mystery illness has made the mission to get there an even bigger challenge.

Cody French, 24, was hospitalized when his health took a turn in late March 2021.

"I was having crazy stomach issues, I wasn't feeling good, I was losing weight. And then I started puking blood," said French.

It escalated to the point where he began bleeding from his left eye. Doctors found bleeding ulcers but they weren't sure what was causing them.

The timing couldn't have been worse for French, who was looking to rise in the Canadian men's street skateboarding rankings and earn himself a spot on the national team. The pandemic didn't help either when it halted travelling because French often goes to California in the winter for competitions or for his brand deals.

"I was scared for sure. When you take a lot of time off skateboarding you lose a little bit of muscle memory, you lose a lot of confidence," he said.

Cody French says he’s battled depression since being faced with an illness that doctors can’t get to the bottom of. He’s pictured at the Doon Skatepark in Kitchener on Dec. 13 during an interview with CTV News about his journey. (Spencer Turcotte/CTV News)

That's not the only thing he lost. He dropped about 50 pounds in the span of 21 days. Fast forward to now, the ulcers are still bleeding, and specialists aren't sure what's causing it. French says it's taken a toll on his mental health.

"When I did get sick, I was depressed. I was very depressed. I was seeing therapists and stuff like that," he said, adding that it's OK to ask for help.

He says speaking out about mental health is especially important to him now because the medication he has been prescribed for his illness has led to periods of depression.

While his road, or ride, to recovery is far from over, he is gaining back strength and has made a jump in the rankings.

He now sits in 30th among Canada's top street skaters, up from 36th in 2021, and he hasn't taken his eyes off his Olympic dream.

"If I make the Olympics, that is a dream come true. I would be in tears, I would be so happy. That's a goal. That's a goal as a kid," he said.

While French says he's unsure whether his health will prevent him from competing in Paris 2024, what he can promise is an unwavering love for the sport.

"That's the one thing I'll do forever. Even if I'm in a wheelchair, I'll wheel to the park and watch my friends," he said.

But for now, it's all eyes on him with his feet firmly planted and rolling with whatever comes his way.

He says he has everyone from his parents to his sponsors and manager to thank for helping him through this tough time.

In turn, he tries to repay that kindness to younger skateboarders at skateparks in the community -- whether that's Waterloo, Guelph or at the Doon Skatepark in Kitchener, where he met with CTV News.

He understands how expensive clothing and skateboards can be, so he'll sometimes give items away that he no longer uses.

Whether it's shoes or a skateboard, he hopes the small act of kindness goes a long way in acting as a reminder to keep pushing. Top Stories

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