Haley hopes to empower athletes at Paralympian Search in Halifax

Canadian Paralympic Committee

May 23, 2019

"“People need that chance, to allow themselves to be great"


Andrew Haley remembers the discouragement of being 15 years old and selected last for sports teams, just because he had a disability.  

His life changed when he stumbled upon Para swimming. Fast forward several years later, and he has competed at four Paralympic Games, won five Paralympic medals, and is now an advocate for Para sport. 

He hopes to help others discover their own place in sport, especially in his home province of Nova Scotia. The 45-year-old will be the athlete ambassador at Paralympian Search in Halifax on May 25, which seeks to discover athletes with development potential by inviting people with a physical disability to learn more about their abilities and options in sport. 

“We want to empower them, because physical activity in the whole greater population is pretty low, but in the physically disabled population it is terrible, how low it is,” Haley said. “So, this is very important not only from a physical level but from an emotional level. That’s why events like these have to happen, so people are not afraid to go. A lot of times people don’t even know how to start, and you can almost convince yourself not to do it before even doing it.”

Participants at Paralympian Search will have the opportunity to try out a few different sports in addition to completing a series of physical challenges. Several representatives from sport organizations will be on hand to answer questions and help the athletes find out more about what sports are best for them. 

“People need that chance, to allow themselves to be great, to give themselves the chance to see the star inside of them. And they’re not going to know that unless they talk about it, find out what sport might work for them, and what support network is in place.”

Haley, whose right leg was amputated above the knee following a cancer diagnosis as a young child, credits his Para swimming career for shaping him into the person he is today – turning that unsure kid into a Paralympic champion and a motivational speaker. 

“When you’re successful and on the national team, and able to travel to so many places, you’re able to expand your mind and your knowledge about things going on in the world,” he said. “It’s really a phenomenal thing to travel and represent your country. It’s a pretty big privilege to be able to do that.”

He encourages everyone to come out to the event, where they can feel safe and supported to start their sporting journey.  

“You can participate in a sport where nobody looks at you with a disability, they just look at you like you’re the same. I think some of the people who are coming out to give this a try, those inhibitions they may have about participating, it’s not there. They’re just an athlete and that’s all anybody even looks at.”

“They can feel supported and they can feel empowered that they can accomplish all their dreams and their goals. May 25 could be the start of something great in their lives.”

For more information about Paralympian Search or to register, visit Paralympic.ca/paralympiansearch

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