Canadian Paralympian: Trying para-rowing changed my life forever

October 8, 2014

Reprinted with permission

By Victoria Nolan, Paralympic rower
Published Thursday, September 18, 2014 11:02AM EDT

Victoria Nolan

I am excited about this resource for so many reasons.

It is especially meaningful for me because when I was young sports were not made accessible to me.

I thought I was clumsy and not athletic so I avoided sports for most of my life. Really, I was going blind. 

As I grew older and my vision loss worsened I became increasingly afraid to leave my house and more dependent on others for support. My self-esteem plummeted and I was depressed.

In 2006 the Paralympic Games were happening in Torino and my friend sent me a news article about Brian McKeever, a skier who is visually impaired who had just won 2 gold medals.  She had written one sentence: "I think you're slacking off." Of course she was joking but it made me think that I should give parasports a try.

I tried para rowing and my life changed forever.

I had no idea how important sports are for your self-esteem, confidence sense of community and mental health as well as physical health. The inner strength I have developed comes from sport and I wish I had had the chance to develop that earlier.

The activities in this resource are intended to be inclusive by design.  It is not inclusive to have an alternate activity for someone with different needs.  The goal here is to design games and activities that everyone can participate in, whatever their ability. This is what I have always loved about parasport - when challenges arise with an individual's ability the immediate reaction is how do we find a way to make this work?

Not only will we be able to help children living with disabilities to reach their full potential in sport, but it also raises the awareness of parasports as able bodied students get a chance to learn some fun new sports: goalball, boccia, sitting volleyball and adapted athletics.

As a teacher I appreciate the way this resource puts all students at a level playing field and how much students must rely on cooperation and teamwork. 

When students are experiencing running with a guide with their eyes closed they are going to need to develop trust and communication with their partners.  I have found, with the students in my own school that going through these activities together creates a new sense of community within a class as they learn to overcome challenges together.

I am so excited to help launch this new approach to physical education;  to  inspire some future paralympians and to bring more inclusion to schools.

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