Sports experiences as important as medals for Viviane Forest

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 11, 2019

‘’I learned more from my defeats than my victories in sport’’


Viviane Forest can remember when she participated at the 1998 Blind Games in Spain coming across a Canadian judoka who epitomized the joy of living. The judoka was Pier Morten of Burnaby, B.C., and he was a blind, deaf and mute competitor.

‘’His wife was his interpreter and they also had two children,’’ said Forest. ‘’I was amazed by his ability to communicate and to have this active and busy life. You could even dance with him by tapping the beat of the music on his shoulder.

‘’It was hard for me to complain after that about my vision problems and my inability to drive a car which caused me constant frustration at the time.’’

Those were the early days in a remarkable and unique career for Forest, recently named for induction into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame. 

Forest was initially a member of the national goalball team and won Paralympic Games gold medals in 2000 and 2004. Then she switched to Para alpine skiing when she moved from Montreal to Edmonton.

She was a darling of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, winning five medals in Whistler including gold in the downhill with guide Lindsay Debou – which made her the first Canadian woman to win gold in both the winter and summer Paralympic Games. 

‘’There was still one skier to go and my guide kept me abreast of the splits,’’ said Forest, born with four percent vision. ‘’As I was getting the news my eyes were watering up and she said I had won by 0.66 seconds, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was.’’

But at the end of that downhill, Forest crashed at the finish. She broke her wrist and suffered a concussion. It wasn’t her first head injury. In 2005, she was not able to compete for Canada at the world goalball championships due to a concussion.

Forest, who ultimately officially retired in 2013, continues to feel the aftereffects of her concussions to this day and receives regular treatment. 

‘’I learned more from my defeats than my victories in sport,’’ she said. ‘’You have to have humility and compassion. Just like in my travels, I realized how people were suffering in many countries while we lived in nice hotels. That always tugged at my heartstrings. We are so fortunate to be born in Canada.’’

Forest says it takes a village to support an athlete.

‘’I was a very active child and did a lot of sports. But my success couldn’t have been achieved without the countless people who helped me throughout my career. As a blind athlete I always needed a guide and we meet these wonderful people who want to share, who love sports and want to help.’’

Forest will be officially inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame at a ceremony on November 15 in Vancouver. 

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