A Paralympian’s Perspective: One-Year After the Vancouver Games

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Written by Josh Dueck, silver medalist in the men's sitting slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

When I look back to my Paralympic experience; it was not about personal athletic achievement or glory, it was not about sport or my passion for the mountains. I do not remember all the sacrifices or the setbacks along the way nor do I recall all the times when I asked myself WHY? My experience at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics was all of these and none of these...

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...

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Organizations: Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team

Geographic location: Vernon, Apex Mountain, Whistler Silver Star

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