Wednesday October 7, is World Cerebral Palsy (CP) Day and it’s a golden opportunity to recognize some of Canada’s top Paralympians. Athletes with CP compete in many sports at the Paralympic Games, including para-swimming, para-athletics, 7-a-side soccer, para-cycling, para-alpine skiing, and more.
Para-swimmer Danial Murphy of Halifax, N.S. won a bronze medal at the recent Parapan American Games in Toronto, and says sport has been beneficial to his life in and out of the pool.
“Sport has helped me learn skills, be independent and gain confidence socially,” said Murphy, 26, whose CP affects the right side of his body. “It’s even helped me get the job I have now.” Murphy is a swimming and water safety instructor in Sackville, N.S.
Christian Daniel of Calgary, also a para-swimmer, was born into an athletic family and they knew the benefits of putting their children into sport. Daniel, who reached four finals at the recent Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games, has memories in elementary school of being set aside for certain activities and struggling on long walks due to his CP affecting his legs.
“There were a few challenges growing up, especially initially in school,” said Daniel. “But I learned quickly they were fairly minor and could overcome them. I had great support and if it wasn’t for my parents I don’t know if I would have gotten into sport.”
There are numerous great stories from Canadian CP athletes: Nathan Dewitt from Surrey, B.C. was born with dyplegia cerebral palsy. Doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to ride a bike or walk, but he’s proven them wrong. At 15 he began playing sledge hockey, which led to other sports. At the recommendation of his physiotherapist, Dewitt decided to try wheelchair racing. He was a finalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Thrower Kyle Pettey of Brampton, Ont., is a four-time Paralympian and Parapan Am discus champion Kevin Strybosch of London, Ont., was also a member of Canada’s national sitting volleyball and played at the 2011 World Championships.
In boccia, Paul Gauthier is four-time Paralympic Games medallist as well as a successful entrepreneur and Tammy McLeod of London, Ont., recently won bronze in Toronto. Swimmer Morgan Bird was a double gold medallist at the Parapan Ams.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability in childhood and is also one of the least understood. It is a condition in which muscle tone, reflexes, posture, or movement are affected. It may be present from birth or acquired up to age three as a result of a stroke or head injury. For sport purposes, athletes who acquire a brain injury after age three also fall in to this group.
For more information on Paralympic sport opportunities for athletes with CP and other disabilities, please visit: http://paralympic.ca/findyoursport
The goal for CP day is to develop public awareness, improve the rights and education for people with CP, improve information about CP in the medical community, and help people with CP have a better quality of life and better job opportunities.