She was supposed to arrive early last week but Dalia’s belly just kept getting bigger and bigger. The due date came and went and nothing much else happened. We went about our days, waiting for takeoff, or maybe landing? Me at work and training, Dalia at home and all around and Karolis enjoying his summer vacation. 9 days later the great staff at St. Paul’s Hospital induced Dalia and sent her home, advising that sometimes it can take 2 or 3 days for labour to come.
Dalia and her doola, an amazing friend of ours, thought otherwise. They took a walk around downtown Vancouver to get things going. Around 3 hours (not days!) later, pre-labour started and Dalia and Olivia were ready to go.
Karolis and I were there for everything. We experienced something so scary and awesome and special that words can’t do it justice. Dalia was incredible. It is amazing how quickly her maternity suite screeched to a blissful calm and quiet with such happiness once Olivia arrived.
I remember starting to see all of the hipster tinged pictures showing up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds many months ago. It was likely around the time that Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion, that I realized what those sepia filtered photos were. Naturally, I decided to get an account and create my own.
I made the decision sitting in the Air Canada London Lounge at Heathrow Airport. It was after a week of speaking to elementary schools in East London, around where the Olympics and Paralympics would soon take place. My thoughts were swirling, as I was glowing in the excitement of all those students, and gearing up to compete myself.
So, I photographed the coffee and water I was drinking, framed the table and background at an angle and applied the glorious filter, before posting to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Drafting the caption was part of the thrill:
“My last European coffee for a while”
It was also Canada Day. So, I reflected on Britain’s role as a former Empire, and Canada’s journey away from associating itself as a colony – luckily, and with lots of help from Britain’s enemy, France and their satellite people, Quebec. The snapshot oozes nostalgia for me. I am not afraid to embrace the full power of the Nickelback Instagram parody (Google it if you have not seen it yet).
Today, I researched what the Air Canada lounge is called at Heathrow, and learned that it will be closing soon. I took the photo from where the arrow is pointing in the photo. The nostalgia meter for this very first Instagram photo I took was cranked up even more.
It captured my anxiety about putting my years of boccia training to the test. It reminds me of the Canada Day I spent in the British Empire’s former capital and how I felt glad to be Canadian. It celebrates the rich and bold quality of coffee available seemingly everywhere in Europe, and expresses my anguish at having to return to a land where most coffee is barren and largely not delicious.
I am not sure if I can produce another Instagram picture with as much raw meaning. I hope you will click the main photo above and follow me on Instagram as I try.
I had a great time last weekend, honoured as a Paralympic medalist at the Great Valentine Gala. Another highlight for me was riding in a truly innovative new accessible limo service. Love My Limo picked me up from the airport in an MV-1 and I wrote about the experience at allaccesspass.ca.
It is so great to see more wheelchair accessible transportation options becoming available in Toronto, in addition to wheelchair accessible taxis, wheelchair accessible transit and the Wheel Trans service. Maybe one day, the transportation systems across Canada will be as inclusive as those in cities like London, UK – where 100% of transit buses and taxis are accessible.
It has been just over a month since I returned home from London. Since then, I have wanted to write a blog post summing everything up, but the words have not been flowing. Part of the reason is that, I often have to use my blog as a way to keep in touch with all my supporters and let everyone know how I am doing on the international circuit. This time, the Canadian media did a good job of keeping everyone updated on the journey Marco and I slammed through – check out the links at the end of this post.
Everyone did an amazing job cheering me on over Facebook and Twitter throughout the Games, even with my short updates. It was so great to feel that huge support behind us each morning, as I checked my email and social media from the Paralympic Village.
I am still trying to track down video footage from our bronze medal game. It was filmed, but does not seem to have been broadcast in Canada. Although the Canadian print media covered us well, CTV didn’t seem to capitalise on showing the video of our story. I will get a hold of it one of these days.
Since being back with the medal, I have had lots of speaking opportunities and chances to share our win. It feels amazing to have more respect, opportunities, confidence and expectations flowing in. It is also of course daunting. I want to make sure that I use the medal to create as much value as I can.
So, I have been asking myself: Why do people love medals so much? It is clear why we athletes love medals – it is what we are so selfishly working towards for our entire competitive career.
Then, I met a journalist this weekend, photographing me at Variety Village’s 16th Annual Active Living Conference – where I was speaking to a great audience of up and coming sport leaders – and showed him my bronze medal from London. His eyes lit up and he said: “Wow, I haven’t seen one of these since I met Mark Tewksbury years ago!”
With those few words, I realised that medals are the prizes that we elite athletes are striving towards, but they are also tokens from one of the most amazing international movements on our planet. They are so hard to get, but when someone captures one, we sometimes forget that they are all connected.
They are connected to each other, in that all elite athletes have an energy about them that is contagious and seems to radiate from the medal itself. More importantly, international medals are connected to the families, friends, early coaches, local sport clubs, schools, communities, businesses, teammates, sport scientists, elite coaches, sponsors and surroundings of the athletes who win them.
Since getting back to Canada with my bronze medal, the most profound experience I have had is reflecting on all of the other people who played a role in our win. A great coach once told me: “Being a successful athlete is about doing a great job taking care of all the little things.”
I love sharing my medal because it came to me because of so many others.
My parents, the early coaches who encouraged me to take up sport, my teammates who pushed me and my boccia skills to the next level – and then the next one – the elementary and high school students I have spoken to over the years, the businesses like Moksha Yoga and Compudata Systems that believed in me, the media who covered our journey, and Dalia who shifted my focus on how to live healthy with a winning mindset every day, all helped me take care of the little things. They won that medal for us.