Tim McIsaac golden swimmer, golden heart
Tim McIssac, Canada’s most successful Paralympic athlete, continues to devote most of his time and energy to helping people with a disability.
“I am grateful that I’ve had a career and been able for most of my working life to work with people with a disability,’’ he said” ‘’I want to keep doing work that benefits younger people with a disability in particular, and help them find their way in the world and make that transition from school to work.
‘’The unemployment numbers for the visually impaired and people with a disability is still too high.’’
Today McIsaac works for the Manitoba provincial government and is a leader in improving relationships between his employer and its employees with a disability. He is also back in school studying to get a Masters degree in psychology (a second Masters).
As a blind Para swimmer McIssac compiled 28 medals in four Paralympic Games appearances between 1976 and 1988 including 14 gold. He was a pioneer in the sport: the first blind swimmer to execute a tumble turn and he helped developed the tapping system with his coaches Wilf and Audrey Strom. This warned swimmers when they were approaching the wall and it was time to turn.
‘’I was blessed to have coaches who understood what I was capable of,’’ he said. ‘’They gave me the opportunity to achieve my goals. Being in sport strengthened my character and my resolve. I was able to pick myself up a lot faster after setbacks.’’
The Paralympic world has grown in stature since the days McIsaac was breaking world records and standing on top of podiums
‘’It’s been great to see how the support for Paralympic athletes is better since I was competing,’’ he said. ‘’With the increased media coverage I can follow the movement once again which was hard to do once I retired. The internet and social media have made it possible for organisations to generate their own media.’’
Has the world changed enough for people with disability? For McIsaac there is still a long way to go but he is a willing warrior.
‘’We still need social justice in all our institutions including sport, to assure that people with all disabilities get the resources they need.
‘’There are still kids out there with a disability like mine that are not getting the opportunity.’’