Paralympians visit city schools
What's missing doesn't matter, say athletes
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 03:30 pm
St. Albert students got up close and personal with some Olympic heroes Thursday as part of a nationwide celebration of Canada’s wins at the Sochi Winter Games.
Seven Olympic and Paralympic athletes visited eight St. Albert schools Thursday.
They were some of the roughly 200 athletes who fanned out across Alberta last week as part of the 2014 Canadian Olympic Heroes Tour – an event meant to promote physical fitness and celebrate Canada’s Olympic achievements.
Paralympians Kimberly Joines and Brad Bowden spoke before about 140 Sir George Simpson students Thursday about their time at the 2014 Sochi games.
The games were super fun, said Joines, 33, who has won 42 world cup medals, 10 world championships and two bronze Paralympic medals in para-alpine skiing.
“I’m kind of the (team) mom,” she joked, as she often helps out her much-younger teammates.
There’s so much more energy and excitement in the air at the Olympics than at a world championship, Joines continued. You’ve got more teams, bigger crowds, and higher stakes – it’s the highest level of competition you can reach.
That can make for a lot of nervousness, but that’s good – it means your body is building up energy to perform, she said.
“Usually my nerves go away the second I kick through that (starting) wand.”
Being an Olympian is extremely cool, said Bowden, a three-time world champion and a gold and bronze Paralympic medallist in sledge hockey at age 31.
“I feel like I’m the coolest guy ever, but I’m still the same guy.”
What you have, not what you don’t
Joines said she was a very active kid growing up in Edmonton, taking part in every sport she could – particularly snowboarding.
“I think (my dad) was always trying to raise an Olympic athlete.”
Her snowboarding career was cut short when she fell 50 feet onto her back during a training accident in B.C. in 2000. The resulting spinal injury left her with little use of her legs.
But she had also learned about the sit-ski during her time on the slopes – a device that lets people ski without use of their legs.
“As soon as I hurt myself, I (said) ‘I’ve got to get me one of those.’”
Less than a year later, she was tearing down Rabbit Hill on a sit-ski and onto the Canadian Paralympic team.
Bowden, who is also a Paralympic gold and silver medallist in wheelchair basketball, was born with sacral agenesis – a spinal condition that affects use of his legs.
“How many people here have a dream?” he asked the students.
Most raised their hands in response.
Bowden said his dream growing up was to be a goalie in the NHL. When he learned that wasn’t going to happen, he rethought his goal and tried some other sports.
He said he was reluctant at first – he didn’t want to play with the other “disabled” kids – but when he tried sledge hockey, he fell in love with it immediately.
“I feel I was made to play this sport.”
Bowden and Joines said being a Paralympian is about what you have, not what you’re missing.
You can get a job, have relationships and do great in sports even if you’re in a wheelchair, Joines continued.
“For us, it’s all about the sport, and it has nothing to do with the disability.”
Bowden encouraged the students to try new activities and to follow their dreams.
“Don’t listen to anybody who tells you that you can’t do something,” he said.
“If you have passion for something, just go for it.”
Grade 8 student Julie Pucci said she was inspired by Bowden and Joines’s message, as she had been through a similar experience.
“The doctors told my parents I’d be in a wheelchair all my life” due to a medical condition, she said, yet through practice and dedication, she’s now able to walk around school unassisted.
“Despite their disabilities, they’re on the Olympic team, and I think that’s great.”