Viviane Forest’s resume is highlighted by her multiple Paralympic medals – in both winter and summer sports – but the real story about this phenomenal athlete is how she overcame adversity to earn all her success.
The biggest example is her performance at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Forest was Canada’s poster girl in the lead-up to the Games as she looked to become the first Canadian female Paralympian to win a gold medal at both a winter and summer Paralympics. Formerly a champion goalball player, she was making her winter Games debut in Para alpine skiing on home soil.
The visually impaired Montreal native, who was born with four percent vision, opened with a silver in the slalom and followed it up with a bronze in the giant slalom, before she achieved her historic gold in the downhill.
But in that victorious race, Forest crashed after the finish. She was unable to stop because she could not put weight on her leg, which she had injured earlier in the competition. She was later diagnosed with a broken wrist and a concussion.
But rather than store her skis, Forest persevered to complete her two final races. With her guide Lindsay Debou, Forest battled intense pain and a bandaged swollen hand to take the silver medal in both the super-G and super combined over the next two days. She finished Vancouver 2010 with a podium finish in all five races for a total of one gold, three silver, and one bronze medal.
She received the Best Games Debut award at the 2010 Canadian Paralympic Sport Awards for her remarkable results at her first Paralympic Winter Games. Viviane became the first Canadian woman to win gold in both the summer and winter Paralympics.
In 2012 Viviane returned to the alpine race circuit winning a silver and a bronze at the World Championships in La Molina, where she started her alpine podium ascent 5 years earlier. Unfortunately, the injuries she sustained in 2010, even after surgery and physio did not fully heal and in March 2013 Forest announced her retirement at age 33. Her last run was at the Canadian national championships that spring. Her honorary guide on her final race was none other than Canada’s athlete of the 20th century Nancy Greene Raine, the 1968 Olympic downhill champion.
Forest’s fast track to success in Para alpine skiing was extraordinary. She completed only one year of competition on the Canadian and North American skiing circuit with Canada’s development team before she was invited to join the national squad in 2008. Forest then produced two excellent seasons in 2009 and 2010. On the 2009 IPC World Cup circuit, she won the season overall Crystal Globe in the women’s visual impaired category.
The 17-time World Cup winner was so fast when she started that she won 13 of her first 14 races and went through eight guides before finding a skier who could keep up.
Before she made the switch to the slopes, Forest was already an accomplished Paralympian, winning two Paralympic Games gold medals in the sport of goalball at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. She retired from goalball in 2005 after suffering a concussion and subsequently moved to Alberta to become a French translator. That’s where she found a love for ski racing.
It may have been in goalball and Para alpine skiing that Forest made a name for herself, but she has played a number of sports throughout her life. Starting at the age of four, when she announced to her grandfather that she wanted to go to the Olympics, she has participated in hockey, ringette, karate, judo, track and field, cycling, and provincial level swimming. She ultimately discovered goalball and earned a spot on the national team in 1997.
Now living in Edmonton and a registered massage therapist, Forest has remained close to Paralympic sport. She skis with adapted ski programs and coaches goalball, and is actively involved in sport and recreation programs for people who are visually impaired.
Forest also continues to inspire as a public speaker at corporate, educational and community events. Her critically acclaimed presentations with genuine and strong themes have motivated thousands to be active and reach for their goals and dreams.