A Paralympian's perspective: One year after the Vancouver games
My journey to the games began several years ago, as an aspiring freestyle mogul skier. I was drawn into the sport of freestyle by the strong sense of community amongst the athletes, the passion for the mountains that we all shared and the endless possibilities of how we could express ourselves. My quest as a freestyle skier ended too early, due to the overwhelming financial constraints of being a full-time athlete (a sad song sung by far too many talented Canadian athletes).
I transitioned into coaching the next generation of freestyle superstars. I started at Apex Mountain before finding my home in Vernon coaching the highly regarded Silver Star Mountain Freestyle club. As fate would have it, my time coaching was also cut short, this time by a catastrophic accident that would leave me paralyzed from the waist down. That was in March of 2004.
Some might say that my accident was brutal and burdening, while others would claim that it was a great spiritual enlightenment for me. I will not deny the first but I am certainly drawn into the latter.
Lying in the hospital, writhing in pain and unable to move is certainly not a position I would wish upon my worst enemy. But when faced with such adversity, one is left with the simplest of choices: wallow in misery or move forward. Needless to say, I immediately decided to move forward and make the best of the situation. Rather than focusing on what I had lost (which to this day stills boggles me), I made a conscious choice to move forward with every ounce of my ability. Something magical started to happen right away ... those around me began to feel the positive energy coming from within me and it lit a fire within them, and by nature it became cyclical (from there, the positive energy began snowballing exponentially).
It was not long after my time in the hospital that I returned to the mountains to satisfy my unquenchable desire to ski. After learning the basics of the mono ski, I decided to go for gold at the Paralympics in 2010. The stories from then now are endless and the lessons learned are timeless ...
Flash forward to the March 2010, the Paralympics Games in Whistler. The hype is insane and had been for the year leading up to the games. The crowds are huge, more than any of us athletes had ever seen. The energy was out of the world! Finally, my moment had arrived to compete on the ultimate world stage ... and the greatest sense of calm came over me. My objective coming into the games was not about personal accomplishment or glory or any of that; it was all about creating a sense of unity and community amongst those who matter most to me. I looked down into the crowd and knew that I had already done what I had set out to do ... the connection I share with my friends and family was LOUD and clear! The only thing left was to do what I love to do ... just ski. The rest is now history ... a story that I hope will be shared for years to come.
One year later, the moral of the story is to find your passions and live your dreams; embrace the unexpected and see each of life's challenges as an opportunity waiting to be seized.
Josh Dueck is a silver medalist in the men's sitting slalom at the Vancouv er 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Go to Paralympic.ca to watch this memorable event.