Priscilla Gagné’s family never let her visual impairment blind them to her potential to achieve her dreams. The Canadian para-judoka’s bubbly personality, confidence and success are deeply rooted in the support she’s received at home.
Gagné has retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that narrows her peripheral vision and prevents night vision. But that was never a deterrent in her pursuit of sport.
‘’As a kid I always wanted to do what the others were doing as far as sports,’’ said Gagné who turns 30 in May. She was born in Granby, Que., grew up in Sarnia, Ont., and is now based in Montreal.
‘’When you have an older brother I think it is just natural to be competitive. But my brother was always game on to let me try new things while others kids were skeptical. He was my biggest cheerleader.’’
Whether it was painting softball and hockey pucks brightly orange or building bigger bases that she could more easily see, Gagné’s family always seemed to find solutions to keep her involved.
‘’It was fantastic to participate, I loved it,’’ said Gagné, who opened the 2016 World Cup para judo season with a silver medal in women’s 52 kilos last week at the German Open. ‘’And my mother always made sure I wore the proper gear to keep safe. We were a team.’’
Her sports career has allowed her to travel all over the world as a representative of Team Canada. Both Family Day and Flag Day are being celebrated this month. Gagné knows the power of the Maple Leaf internationally.
‘’Canada is very respected in international sports,’’ said Gagné, a who competes in the 52 kg weight class. ‘’What’s also great for me is being the first female para-judo competitor from Canada. The other countries are quite excited about that.’’
The road to Rio in 2016 will be a busy one for Gagné, a silver medallist at the Parapan Pan American Games last year in Toronto. It will include competitions and training camps in Rio, France and Britain before the final preparations for the Games.
You know she’ll think of family first if that Maple Leaf is raised in her honor this September in Rio.