| Mar 03, 2005

Feature article, March 3, 2005

Feature article March 3, 2005

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Paralympian Silver Medallist visits Harrowsmith PS

by Jule Koch Brison and Ann Elvins

Students at Harrowsmith Public School were excited to welcome Paralympic Silver Medallist Chelsea Lariviere to the school on Wednesday Feb 23. Adding to the excitement was a CBC crew that was on hand to film the occasion for the documentary series Moving On, a show that chronicles people with physical disabilities and how they lead independent lives.

Chelsea, a 21-year-old student at Carleton University, won a silver medal at the 100m wheelchair races in Athens last September. She also came 4th at the Paralympics in Sydney in 2000.

Chelsea came to Harrowsmith PS as an ambassador for Ready, Willing & Able, a Paralympics Ontario program aimed at increasing the awareness and number of youth participating in sport for the physically disabled. She spoke to the students about the importance of an active lifestyle and the benefits of physical fitness from participating in sports.


Chelsea credits the Paralympic organization for her success. She started training when she was 12, but the idea of going to the Paralympics never occurred to her until, a guy walked in and said you have the potential to go to the Paralympics. She was taken aback by the idea, but once she tried it, she says, Ive never looked back. She made the national team when she was 16.

Competition has taken her all over the world and allowed her to experience many different cultures. She told the students about getting on the wrong bus in Sydney on the day of the competition, with only 15 minutes to get to the starting line. She described her plight to the bus driver, who turned to the other passengers and said, Weve got a poor sheila here whos got on the wrong bus. Anybody mind if we take a detour? No one minded, so amazingly, the bus turned around and deposited her at the Olympic stadium. But she was so rattled that when the starting gun went off, she popped a wheelie instead of taking off. Nevertheless, her athletes training allowed her to recover and she missed the bronze medal by only half a second.

She described being so focused in the Athens race that she literally did not hear anything after the starters gun. She missed the gold medal by 200th of a second, but was very happy to win the silver.

The students asked how long she had practiced for the Paralympics. She replied that for the year leading up to the games, she had practiced twice a day, six days a week. She said shes tried other sports, but the cold in skiing triggered her asthma and the chlorine in swimming ruled out that sport. Chelsea has cerebral palsy, and has difficulty walking, so wheelchair racing suited her the most.

After her talk, the students had the opportunity to try out a racing chair and basketball wheelchairs. Racing chairs are made of aluminum and are specially designed to fit the body of each athlete. They are very light so its easy to tip them over backwards. The students had fun trying to dribble basketballs while maneuvering around a pylon course, but they didnt find it easy.

Chelsea gave a tremendous presentation, and she communicated to the students her love of sport, her determination and her focus.

Chelsea and Harrowsmith student and former Easter Seals Ambassador Jenna Lambert will be featured in Moving On this spring.

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