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Provincial Parasport Games coming to Kingston this weekend

May 27, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

The path to success is not a lot different for an athlete with a disability than it is for an able-bodied competitor, Karen Blachford believes.

“It’s about trying a sport, finding one you like, having the right support behind you,” said Blachford, a gold medalist in curling at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin.

“It’s also about having good family support, having good coaches, having the drive and dedication to make the sacrifices you have to make along the way to move up the ladder in the progression of the sport.”

Ontario’s best disabled athletes will be coming to Kingston this weekend for an important step in that progression. The Parasport Games will bring about 330 participants to the city for competition in seven sports, Friday through Sunday.

It’s the largest multisport athletic event in the province for athletes with a disability, and for the first time it will be combining sports that traditionally have been held in separate summer and winter events.

“For those folks who are athletic and enjoy sports, it’s a venue for them to perform … a place for them to challenge themselves, meet their goals and maybe set new goals to follow thereafter,” said Blachford, co-chair of registration for this weekend’s event.

“It takes a lot of work to get to this event. There are sanctioned times you may have to meet, regional qualification, you may have to be selected to a team. This can be the highlight of someone’s athletic career.”

Athletic in her youth in her hometown of Brockville, Blachford has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair since her early 20s. She got involved initially in sledge hockey and track and field — shot put, discus and the 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres on the track — “through a friend who knew a friend who was involved in sports for persons with disabilities.”

“Years ago I didn’t know there was sports at the regional or provincial level. I just thought it was at the Paralymic level. I didn’t realize there was a stepping stone available to take to get to that level. That’s what the Parasport Games are.”

When an opportunity to try curling presented itself, Blachford gave it a whirl. Not long after that she was part of a group of novice Canadians who went to the world championship in Switzerland in 2004 and surprised even themselves to return home with silver medals.

“We were the newcomers to wheelchair curling,” she explained. “Many countries in Europe had been curling for many years before us.

The thrill of that kind of achievement is the same for any athlete, Blachford said.

“The only difference between our athletes and able-bodied athletes is they have physical disabilities,” she said. “Sometimes the drive that our athletes have might be a little bit stronger, because they’ve already had to overcome so much, having a physical disability, just to be able to perform in a sport.

“They’re just as dedicated to their sport as any able-bodied athlete and work just as hard. Sometimes the challenges are more to get to that level.”

Need to know

What: Ontario Parasport Games

When: Friday through Sunday at various venues in and around Kingston

 Who: 329 athletes, coaches, managers and officials participating in seven sports

Opening ceremony: Lt.-Gov. David Onley will preside, Friday, 8 p.m., St. Lawrence College gym

Athletics: Shot put, discus and javelin throws, Friday, 12 to 3 p.m., Richardson Stadium; track events and high jump, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Caraco Field

Boccia: Friday, 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., St. Lawrence College

Goalball: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Loyalist Collegiate

Equestrian: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dream Catcher Farm, McGarvey Road

Sledge hockey: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to noon, Invista Centre

Wheelchair basketball: Friday 12:30 to 2 p.m., Saturday 9:30 to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to noon, Kingston Military Community Sport Centre

Wheelchair rugby: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Queen Elizabeth Collegiate

Website: http://www.ontarioparasportgames.com

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From → Amateur sport

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