Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Face of the Day - Joan Reid

I met Joan at NorAms in 2006 and she has been a good buddy ever since. Even though she hadn't been an athlete before her injury, she took on the challenge of making the 2010 Paralympic team as a cross-country sit-skier. Joan always put that goal above everything else and truly became a full-time athlete.

As part of her cross-training, Joan started rowing and qualified to represent Canada at the 2008 World Championships in Germany. Unfortunately, she broke a rib at that competition and that set her training back for the 2008-2009 ski season because she missed more than a few weeks of endurance base training over the summer recovering from her injury. Joan didn't let that stop her though and she kept training and working towards her goal of representing Canada here at the Vancouver Games. Sometimes though in sport, you need a little luck and for Joan, Lady Luck was not on our side. She missed qualifying for the 2008 World Cup team simply because we only get one shot in November to make the team and she just wasn't back to being 100%. She continued to race locally and nationally that season, but by March, she still wasn't feeling like she had before her injury and decided to stop skiing competitively.

Even though she herself is no longer racing, Joan continues to be one of my biggest supporters. More than once, I have emailed or phoned her to vent when I'm frustrated with how my skiing is going and she always is willing to listen and offer words of encouragement. And when I email or phone her to celebrate my good races, she shares in my joy. She has been a constant supporter of my skiing adventures and I have very much appreciated her passion for the sport as well as her wise words of wisdom.

Since I have been a high performance athlete for the past 18 years, the idea of no longer competing is a scary one. What am I going to be if I'm no longer an athlete? What will I do? Joan has shown me that there is life after sport and that the transition might not be as scary as I originally thought. Her decision to stop competing has made me really think about whether or not I want to continue competing or whether it is time to move on to something new. That decision will have to be made, but not right now....

Joan also happens to be a lover of chocolate, which is always a good thing! But we do have a team policy to help Joan overcome her fear of vegetables and fruit, though I'm pretty sure we are failing on all fronts in that battle. I gave her a fridge magnet a year ago that says "I din't climb to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian" and that pretty much sums up Joan's food philosophy. Who knew that strawberries and pineapple were yucky?

In spending time with Joan, I have also realized just how inaccessible our world still is for people in wheelchairs. Even relatively new buildings aren't always accommodating for people in wheelchairs. Think about this for just one day while you go through your daily activities. Take note of how many places you go that don't have level entries or ramps to get in and elevators that go to all the floors. Think about how many counters at places like banks and businesses are low enough for anyone sitting in a wheelchair to easily see over. Consider how many things you need to use or reach for when you go shopping are accessible to someone in a wheelchair. When you visit a public washroom, check to see if there is a stall with extra room for a wheelchair user. If you take the time, you'll realize that for people in wheelchairs, there are still a lot of barriers to be overcome! And things often get worse, not better, when you leave the more urban centres. Many nordic centres, for example, aren't even remotely accessible so while all of us can go in to get changed or sit by a warm fire, wheelchair users cannot. Why can't we just design things to always be accessible in the first place? To make that happen, people need to open their minds.....

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