Statement: AthletesCAN Commends Federal Government’s Renewed Commitment to High Performance Athletes

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 — OTTAWA — AthletesCAN released the following statement in reaction to the 2015 federal budget:

“On behalf of Canadian national team athletes, we applaud the Government of Canada’s commitment to sport in the 2015 federal budget,” said Josh Vander Vies, President of AthletesCAN and London 2012 Paralympic bronze medalist in Boccia.

“We are particularly interested in the innovative proposal announced that will match up to twenty million dollars in private contributions over four years to one of the most underfunded groups in Canadian sport – up and coming high performance athletes. Supporting athletes and their families, early in their athletic careers is critical to a thriving sport system,” said Vander Vies.

“Our dedicated national team athlete leaders are honoured to have worn the maple leaf while competing across the world. We believe that sport is an integral part of Canadian culture, and we look forward to consulting with the Government of Canada to ensure that this funding is used effectively.”

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AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country and the first organization of its kind in the world.  As the collective voice of Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN ensures an athlete centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture.

Why I donate to the Canadian Paralympic Movement

Josh and wife Dalia on podium in Guadalajara 2011. Baby Olivia playing with a backpack in front of wheelchair. Josh graduating UBC law school, convocation.

Eight years old, I was in my family living room, huddled around the couple inches of TV we had back then. The little feet I was born with were sweaty and gripping our hardwood floor.

Lane 6 at those Atlanta Olympics had my entire attention – focused even more laser-like after three false starts. We were waiting along with the whole world. The gun went off and they were away clean. Donovan Bailey looked like he was going to finish last.

Then he blasted across the finish line first through the announcer’s yells: “Nine eight four, a world record for Donovan Bailey and a gold medal!” I jumped, and flexed my little boy shoulders and short arms and screamed just like he did. A gold medal for Canada.

I didn’t realize that was where my journey in competitive sport began, until a Radio Canada reporter asked me at the London 2012 Paralympics, before I competed, “When did you decide to become an athlete?” The interview was in French, and I was already a few paces behind with my messaging. I paused, and blurted: “Bein, j’étais très inspiré par la médaille d’or de Donovan Bailey dans les 100m.” I went on to tell the reporter that after seeing him win, I wanted to do the same thing.

If I had been born a few years earlier, or in a different city, I might not have been able to. Luckily, my parents already had me in swimming lessons, and we found the option of being competitive in the local disability sports team, the Sarnia Red Hots. The Olympics inspired me to be an athlete for Canada. The Paralympic movement gave me a path to do it.

On the Red Hots, I fell in love with beating my own swimming time, then beating other swimmers. At multi-sport disability events like the Windsor Classic Indoor Games for the Physically Disabled, I met other kids doing the same. I found shot put and discus and javelin there – throwing events I could compete in. I threw some of my first boccia balls in Windsor.

The memory of my first boccia games is like Donovan Bailey’s win on TV. It is so clear and very fuzzy around the edges. I won all the boccia games, and took first place out of three junior players. One of my opponents was pretty upset, and my parents’ words about him ring these years later: “Apparently he was used to usually beating all the adults.” That felt pretty good.

There weren’t many tournaments like my first. I spent most of my career as an elite athlete losing, and learning in defeat. I learned enough to pull off a bronze medal win with my doubles partner Marco Dispaltro in London 2012, but sport and the journey to that podium gave me way more than the medal.

Josh and wife Dalia on podium in Guadalajara 2011. Baby Olivia playing with a backpack in front of wheelchair. Josh graduating UBC law school, convocation.

Sport introduced me to my beautiful wife. That means even our little Olivia is from sport. Sport got me travelling away from my parents so I knew I could survive at university away from the nest. Sport taught me to set hard goals and achieve them, so I went on to finish law school.

There are less and less multi-sport disability clubs like the Sarnia Red Hots now though. Disability focused sport events happen less and less in Canada, and it is becoming less clear how kids, especially disabled kids, can participate in sport and have the choice to become athletes. I worry that other kids like me won’t have the opportunities that I did. Sport participation is plummeting across Canada. Only 3% of disabled Canadians participate in sport.

Josh and Donovan Bailey photos, side by side. Both are yelling, while competing at respective Games.

You can help me make sure current opportunities are strengthened and new ones built, by supporting the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) with me. They are asking for our help this month in raising funds.

After working as a summer law student last year at a top Canadian charity law firm, my thoughts on giving and charity were transformed. I learned that charity is not just about the weird feeling we get when those infomercials show suffering cute animals, or third world children. Charity can have an impact.

CPC sponsors are doubling the first $30,000 in donations for this campaign – Playground to Podium. I donated $250 of my own money to give back to a cause that gave me my path in life.

Please help build future Canadians – more healthy ones, and international medalists – by donating along with me, to my campaign giving group here, or through the image below.

 

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Silver Stings in Brazil

The Brazilian Boccia Championships came to a close last night and I am still feeling the sting of silver.  Here is something most athletes already know: winning bronze feels better than losing gold.

We had a great tournament in Maringá, Brazil.  The national association, ANDE, invited some Canadians to come and compete in their nationals, learn from each other and push both of our programs forward.  Marco and I were honoured to do just that over the past few days.

We competed in singles and doubles against great Brazilian athletes we have seen before at the Americas’ Cups, Parapanamerican Games, World Championships and Paralympic Games.  What was even better was to meet with new athletes, athletes we had met before, competition organizers, referees and politicians.  ANDE had the excellent idea to provide us with translators while we were here, so we could truly meet everyone – thank you to Melanie and Felipe who were excellent!

With our great social and cultural experience here and the political issues swirling around events like Sochi 2014, Rio 2014 and 2016, I am becoming convinced that athletes are the real diplomats.

My Results

Singles: 8th | Doubles: Silver

In the singles event, I won my two pool games, advanced to the round of 16 and won.  Unfortunately for me, the draw put me with world #1 Eliseu Dos Santos in the round of 8.  The match started off solidly with me scoring a hard fought 1 point in the first end. It ended solidly too, with me keeping him to a single point against me in the last end.  But, Eliseu showed why he is world #1 in the 2nd and third ends, scoring 4 and 2 points respectively – beating me 7 – 1.  I was knocked out, but happy that Marco beat world #2 Dirceu Pinto on the court beside me 3 – 2 and it was great to watch him win bronze on Saturday morning.

Doubles was a sudden death elimination format.  While we didn’t play perfectly, Marco and I were in control for the entire tournament, which we loved.  In the final against a Sao Paulo team led by Eliseu Dos Santos, we were outplayed and came up short by one point.  Elite sport is not just about, winning, setting goals and achieving them though.  Our system and playing style is ramping up and we can’t wait to test it again soon.

A gruelling week is now topped off with 36 hours of travel back to Canada.  I can’t wait to get home and see Dalia, Karolis and Olivia.

Paralympian Josh Vander Vies Raises Over $7,000 for Canadian Boccia Team

 

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VANCOUVER, September 11, 2013 – London 2012 Paralympic bronze medalist in boccia BC4 mixed pairs and UBC Law student, Josh Vander Vies, hosted an innovative fundraising event on August 29 – the Boccia Throwdown.  So far, it has raised $7,360 in much-needed funds for his Canadian Boccia Team, while rallying the community to support them as they take on the world.

“Being an elite athlete is expensive,” said Vander Vies, “and while many of our costs are covered by our National Sport Organization (NSO), our team still needs to find more than $22,000 from our own pockets this year to compete for Canada.  Along with our own living and training expenses, that means we have to rely on our friends, families and communities to keep roofs over our heads and healthy food on our tables.  It felt great to know I had amazing people behind me when I was on the Paralympic courts in London, and I was proud to support my teammates through this fun event, building an even stronger foundation for our future”.

The money raised will also fuel competitions, training opportunities, equipment, sport science and other needs of the Canadian team as they head towards Rio 2016.  Champions in Sport, a Vancouver-based foundation for athletes and NSOs, powered the logistics of the Boccia Throwdown.  Moksha Yoga East Vancouver, Hootsuite, Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Anthony Seamen Ltd., Charity Express, Benefic, Peer Giving Solutions and Investors Group sent teams to battle each other at Creekside Community Centre in indoor boccia action, raising funds for Canada’s best boccia players.

“Investors Group considers it an honour to support Canada’s elite athletes like Josh Vander Vies through our Investors Group Bursary program,” said Sharon Moskalyk, Vice President, Financial Services.  “When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of a community fundraiser like the Boccia Throwdown for one of our bursary recipients, we were thrilled to participate.  Challenging the other team is great fun when you have Josh as your partner and coach!”

Boccia is a precision sport, similar to lawn bowling, curling and chess, played indoors in over 50 countries and is one of the three Paralympic sports that do not have an Olympic counterpart.  It is one of the most inclusive sports that exist: an elegant game that combines strategy and skill with physical precision, not necessarily strength.

The Boccia Throwdown also enjoyed significant online donations from fans that could not attend or simply spectated.  Maria Senajova, Realtor at RE/MAX Crest Realty Westside said, ”when I saw Canada’s top boccia players in action and the precise skill it takes to be the best in the world, I felt pride knowing they live in my community and with our support they go beyond their limits and beyond our own. I’ve gained a new appreciation for our Canadian elite athletes; supporting them is such an honour.  I am already looking forward to the next Throwdown”.

Online donations will remain open at https://chimp.net/groups/boccia-throwdown until September 19 at 1pm when Vander Vies will announce the total funds raised at a small ceremony at Suite 1250 – 1500 West Georgia Street; the media is invited and encouraged to attend.

 

PHOTOS – click link for high definition.  Please credit: “Photo: Champions in Sport”

 

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Canadian athletes from the national boccia, women’s field hockey, and athletics teams face-off in indoor boccia as team “Jack Smashers” against team “Drunken Debocciery” from Benefic, Peer Giving Solutions and Charity Express.  Photo: Champions in Sport
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A player from Moksha Yoga East Vancouver’s “Todd and the Hot Toddies” team has fun planning her shot as Hootsuite’s team “FunBoys” looks on.  Photo: Champions in Sport
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Paralympic bronze medalist Josh Vander Vies takes time to pose mid-game with his opponents, after being challenged to a match by members of the Canadian women’s field hockey team.
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