KELOWNA, B.C. – It was only over two years ago that Christa Akins learned she would be in a wheelchair after she was hit by a car while cycling on Causton Avenue in Kelowna. The news had left her discouraged and desolate about her future.
But that didn’t show this past Saturday at Paralympian Search where Akins was one of 14 participants at the Central Sports Club. Gaining even more information about sport opportunities, she is eager to expand her horizons in Para sports.
Participants at Paralympian Search had the opportunity to try out a few different sports in addition to completing a series of physical challenges. Several representatives from sport organizations were on hand to answer questions and help the athletes find out more about what sports are best for them.
‘’When I got the injury I thought the bedroom would be my world,’’ said Akins on Saturday. ‘’It wasn’t until I heard about Para sport that I got the will to live again.’’
Still, she was hesitant about participating in the event since her transition to a wheelchair was so recent. But the former able-bodied cyclist and runner was encouraged to attend.
‘’I loved it, we should have this more often,’’ she said after Saturday’s session. ‘’I was a bit intimidated at first because I don’t see myself as a Paralympian yet. But this was really an eye opener and it got me excited.
'’I loved the racing chair. That was the first time I got my heart rate going since the injury. I never played wheelchair tennis and I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was also told to look into hand cycling.’’
For her part, visually impaired participant Jacquie Thom knows all about Para sport. She has competed in goalball and athletics at the national and international level. However, she retired from sport, got married and had children. Now with the nest empty she wants to seek new sport opportunities.
‘’I’m now working out and feeling good,’’ she said. ‘’Currently I am playing curling and dragon boating. I was intrigued to try tennis here, so that could be a thing. It’s really important to get involved in sports recreationally. It’s a huge importance to the health of Canadians especially people with a disability.’’
Rob Shaw, a world top-10 player in wheelchair tennis and the Parapan Am Games champion this past summer in Lima, was the ambassador of the event. This time he wowed the participants with his opening speech.
‘’Rob is an incredible speaker,’’ said powerlifting prospect Francis Laderoute. ‘’He was able to put into words many of the same experiences I had. It was a great way to kick off the event.’’
For more information about Paralympian Search visit Paralympic.ca/Paralympiansearch.