OTTAWA – Patrice Dagenais, Canada’s star wheelchair rugby player from Embrun, advises participants at Saturday’s Paralympian Search at the Centre sportif in Gatineau to attend the event with an open mind and focus on the positive.
‘’It’s best to think ahead and not worry,’’ said Dagenais, 34, the event’s athlete ambassador. ‘’There’s a great opportunity here to try out different sports for all levels of disability under the guidance of experts in the field. It’s going to be fun and I encourage the participants to ask a lot of questions.’’
Paralympian Search is the NFL Combine of Paralympic sport. It is a one-day athlete identification event designed to test participant aptitudes to excel in various Paralympic sports and introduce people with disabilities to more sport opportunities.
The ultimate goal is to discover athletes who could potentially one day represent Canada at the Paralympic Games. Several athletes have been identified from past Paralympian Search events, including Kyle Barber, who in February competed for Canada at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships.
But for most participants, Paralympian Search can be an important step to a long and healthy life thanks to being involved in a sport they love.
‘’I think people with a disability want to find a sport that’s going to keep them active and conditioned,’’ said Dagenais, who helped Canada to silver at the 2012 Paralympic Games and is now training for the Parapan American Games this August in Lima. ‘’It’s also a way to meet people who face similar challenges in life.’’
At age 18, Dagenais fell through a stairwell while working on a house for a construction company and was left paralyzed from the chest down. He was an excellent hockey player, and initially it seemed Para ice hockey would have been his ideal choice, but his disability wasn’t functional for the sport.
‘’I was lucky to be exposed to wheelchair rugby early on in my recovery,’’ he said. ‘’It’s a sport that allowed me to set objectives and to fulfill my dream to represent Canada on the world stage. It made it easy for me to wake up in the morning and work hard.’’
Paralympian Search on Saturday runs from approximately 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Centre sportif.
For more information and registration: http://games.paralympic.ca/gatineau