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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:08

There are still Olympic-calibre athletes to watch

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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The excitement and furor over the Winter Olympics came to a close last weekend with an exciting finish for Canada in men’s hockey and another gold medal to add to the pile earned by Canadian athletes.


Those people with regular viewing habits will have been glad to see television schedules returned to normal this past week, with many drama and comedy shows returning after their own “winter break.”
Some Canadians will likely be going through Olympic withdrawal after being inundated with all things games for the past two weeks.
Most of the athletes have returned home and are getting back to their lives pre-Olympics whatever that may include, but not all athletes have completed the work.
Every Olympic games is followed by the Paralympics. This year, Paralympians will converge on Sochi, Russia March 7-16 for 10 days of competition. There will be athletes from 47 countries at the Paralympics, competing in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, wheelchair curling and the new para-snowboard.
According to Wikipedia, British broadcaster Channel 4 was planning to broadcast more than 45 hours of the Paralympics while American NBC officials have plans to air at least 50 hours of coverage. Doesn’t seem like very much when one thinks about how many hours of television coverage were devoted to the Olympics.
Paralympians work just as hard as other athletes at their sports, and some could argue face even greater challenges when it comes to competing at such a high level. Their accomplishments in earning hardware, and even just the fact they are heading over to Russia to compete, shouldn’t be overlooked by Canadians.
We showed a lot of pride in our athletes during the Olympics. How Canadians were doing in their sports was the feature of social media conversations and obviously made headlines every day of competition. Will the same be able to be said when our Paralympians compete? Will school children be learning about the Paralympics and the challenges these individuals have overcome to take part in these games? We hope so.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee has a comprehensive website about the games and athletes attending (http://www.paralympic.ca/). The marketing campaign this time around is “It’s not what’s missing, it’s what’s there” with the encouragement to tweet about the Canadian Paralympians using #whatsthere.
Officials want us to look past the disabilities of the 34 Canadians taking part in the Games and instead “ fathom their complete, elite, world-class abilities.”
The accomplishments of some of these athletes is remarkable.
Take for example Colette Bourgonje, who was born in Saskatoon and has a street named after her, but now resides in Prince Albert. She is one of the few athletes to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter games. She competes in both wheelchair racing and sit-skiing, when she’s not working at her day job as a teacher.
Greg Westlake, of Toronto, is the captain of the ice sledge hockey team. Paralympic hockey is just as exciting as at the recent Olympics. At the 2008 Worlds, Westlake “scored the game-winning goal with just eight seconds to go to defeat Norway in the gold medal showdown.”
Then there’s Sonja Gaudet, of Vernon, B.C., who is the world’s most decorated wheelchair curler. Talk about hardware, she has gold medals from the 2006 Paralympic winter games from Torino, Italy and Vancouver. She also won gold at the 2013, 2011 and 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championships.
These are just three of the athletes heading over to Russia to compete.
We would challenge readers to discover the name of at least one Canadian Paralympian this time around and choose to follow that person’s journey through the Games. Doing so will likely result in even more awareness and pride in our athletes.
We need to be behind all Canadian athletes — Olympians and Paralympians alike.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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