What Seniors Can Learn From Paralympic Athletes

March 25, 2010

While the Paralympics may get less coverage than the Olympics I think they are even more inspiring that the Olympics. The Olympics are about people in the prime of their lives training intensely to be the best in the world in their event. The Paralympics athletes also train to be the best in their event while overcoming a disability.

There were two notable examples of Canadian athletes overcoming the odds at the Paralympics this year. Lauren Woolstencroft won 5 gold medals in alpine skiing events. A remarkable feat for anyone, especially Woolstencroft who was born with no legs beneath the knees and without her left arm. Rather than let her disability define her she learned to work with her prosthetic limbs. Not only did she find the motivation and time become a world class athlete she is also an electrical engineer.


Another inspiring Canadian athlete is Brian Mckeever. He was only 3 when he started skiing and started competing at age 13. Sadly, at age 19 he began losing his sight due to Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration. Within 2 years he was legally blind but he didn’t let that stop him from competing in the sport he loved. He began competing in Paralympic events and won 7 medals in the 2002 and 2006 games.

When Mckeever won a 50km Olympic Trials race in December 2009 he secured a spot on the Canadian Olympic 2010 cross-country team. If he had competed at the Olympics he would be the first athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. Sadly, four other skiers were selected to compete at the last minute.

Recovering from his disappointment, he turned his attention to his Paralympic events and won 3 gold medals. He’s not resting on his laurels though, he is already thinking of the next winter Paralympics and Olympics.

If people who are blind and missing limbs can be world-class athletes, don’t let a simple thing like your age deter you from being active. Exercising can actually help ease some aging-related pain and counteract the effects of aging. Start a new sport or start playing sports you used to play.

Case in point, George Daley, who danced with 200 other people of all ages in the opening ceremonies of the Paralympics. At 75, Daley isn’t used the hip hop moves but as he says, “You’re never too old to try something new.”

Have you been letting your age stop you from doing something?

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