It's All About Having Fun
As a kid, I was always active; playing games, recreational and organized sports like skiing, hockey, soccer, racing dirt bikes, football, you name it, I played it. I loved to be outdoors, either having fun or doing physically demanding labour jobs. Being active was central to my lifestyle. Without it, I went a little stir crazy.
Life took a sudden turn for me on a sunny day in 1990 that I had planned to spend water skiing and having some fun out on the lake. Unfortunately that day didn't turn out as planned. On the way to the campground where my dad's boat was, I had to drive across a set of railway tracks. I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been, saw the train too late and couldn't back up off of the tracks to get out of the way. A violent impact sent me flying and I landed about 20 metres away from the point of impact. Ouch. That moment of inattention resulted in a spinal cord injury, ruptured organs, numerous broken bones, head injury and cuts and bruises all over my body. I wasn't a pretty sight.
After 4 months in hospital and a rehabilitation centre, I returned to 'the real world' to pick up the pieces and continue the life I knew before it was interrupted by a train. Of course, one of my main concerns as I got back into my life was resuming the active lifestyle that I'd known and being able to get the thrills and spills out of sport that I'd valued so much. When I got back to Ottawa for my last year of university, I started to explore the world of wheelchair sports. I got connected with a wheelchair basketball program, started racing and became involved with a fantastic downhill skiing program at Edelweiss Valley. One thing led to another and I got into racing triathlons. And that's when my addiction to competition and serious sport took hold. Since my first season of racing in 2000 I have taken part in more than 70 triathlons and 4 world championships. I've also been fortunate to take the sport of water skiing to the world stage and had the opportunity to compete in 3 world disabled water ski championship events.
The payback for the dedication, hardcore training regimen, financial expenses and the serious focus that it takes to compete at the international level comes in the form of new friendships, personal challenges, an improved level of health and a number of other personal benefits. At the core of it though, it's all about having fun.
Being an athlete and a physically active person still helps to define me as a person. Sport has become so much more to me than I thought it ever would or could. While I've been fortunate to take my sports to the international level, that is certainly not necessary for a person to gain the same benefits from being active that I've gained. That's the great thing about sports - there is something for everyone. Whether you want to do it alone, with your family or in a group environment. Summer or winter. Inside or outside. Recreational or competitive. Regardless of your level of ability, most activities can be adapted with changes to the equipment, modifications to the rules or other adaptations that can accommodate for different abilities.
There are a number of organizations out there that can introduce you to the activity that you're interested in. The Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability is there to steer you in the right direction. And who knows where it will take you. The people you meet, the doors that can open for you, the benefits you gain and the fun you'll have through your involvement in a physical activity environment will astound you. So get out there and find out what makes you tick. You'll be glad you did.