2013 Boccia Americas Cup in Photos and Tweets

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter yet, here is a recap of the last two weeks I spent with the Canadian Boccia Team in Kansas at the 2013 Americas Cup. It was especially cool to feel the support of my friends, family and members of the Canadian elite sport community!




















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Vancouver Boccia Throwdown! 2013

Being a Canadian elite athlete is expensive.  This summer I am raising funds in Vancouver for the Canadian boccia team, as it heads down the grueling road to Rio 2016.  The goal is to have a lot of fun along the way.

The poster sums it up nicely. Play indoor boccia.  Wrestle your boss. Win a ham. Have a blast. Support a great cause.

Boccia is one of the most inclusive sports that exist – any ability level can play – and it is fantastic team building and recreation.  On August 29, 2013 at 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver we are inviting teams to come and have a fun evening while supporting our national team.  There will be drinks, boccia, sumo suits, and so on, at the community centre gym in the Olympic Village.

A $500 donation is the minimum per team.   To register go to http://bit.ly/b-throwdown – spots are limited.

Can’t make the event?  Support our Canadian boccia team by donating whatever you can here: http://chim.pn/11LOOcs

Next time you see one of us on a podium, know that you helped put us there.


Thrilled to have the support of the Investors Group

Investors Group Logo

I express my excitement to be among this year’s Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund Bursary recipients in the press release below.  Thank you to my family, teammates, and community for supporting me.  Congratulations to AthletesCAN for consistently delivering a program with such a massive impact on Canada’s sport system.


UBC law student Josh Vander Vies awarded 2013 Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund Bursary

OTTAWA, June 27, 2013 – AthletesCAN and Investors Group are pleased to announce that Boccia national team member Josh Vander Vies has been awarded a $5,000 Team Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund bursary.

In keeping with their commitment to amateur sport in Canada, Investors Group established a bursary fund for Canada’s top high performance athletes. A national leader in delivering personalized financial solutions to Canadians, Investors Group annually awards twenty $5,000 bursaries to assist Canada’s elite amateur athletes with the costs of training and competition. Selection criteria includes: athletic achievement, financial need and community involvement. Since its inception in 2000, the Team Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund has provided more than $1,300,000 to Canadian athletes. AthletesCAN administers the bursary on behalf of Investors Group.

“Investors Group considers it an honour to help support our nation’s elite athletes with these bursaries,” says Richard Irish, Vice-President, Community Affairs and Marketing Support for Investors Group. “Athletes at this level are constantly juggling the demands of work and school with training and competition. For 13 years now, we have been pleased to provide Canada’s athletes with bursaries totaling over $1 million to make those demands easier to manage.”

“This bursary recognizes the dedication and excellence Josh exhibits on the field of play and as a leader within his community,” says AthletesCAN Executive Director Jasmine Northcott. “AthletesCAN values Investors Group’s ongoing support of Canada’s national team athletes, and are excited to see this bursary assist Josh in achieving his dreams.”

Josh’s recent sport accomplishments include a bronze medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games in mixed pairs and a bronze at the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan American Games in the mixed individual event.

“For years I have admired Investor’s Group’s commitment to Canadian sport and have looked up to the athletes who have won this prestigious award,” says Josh. “Mixing community impact with athletic accomplishment has been a highlight of my career; I am humbled to be recognized for it. The Team Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund will give me the ability to focus more on my training and studies and less on balancing my budget,” he adds. “This is a huge advantage for me on the court as I tighten my game and seek out competition and training opportunities that would not otherwise be financially viable.”



2013 Team Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund Bursary Recipients:

Meghan Agosta (Ruthven, ON) – Hockey
Breanne Dodd (Surrey, BC) – Water Ski
Alexandra Duckworth (Kingsburg, NS) – Halfpipe Snowboarding
Meagan Duhamel (Lively, ON) – Figure Skating
David Eng (Montreal, QC) – Wheelchair Basketball
Christine Girard (White Rock, BC) – Weightlifting
Jessica Groeneveld (Innisfail, AB) – Kayak Slalom
Constantine Kudaba (Port Coquitlam, BC) – Water Polo
Karina LeBlanc (Maple Ridge, BC) – Soccer
Jessica Mair (Edmonton, AB) – Curling
Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK) – Speed Skating
Jenna Martin (Bridgewater, NS) – Athletics
Paul Poirier (Unionville, ON) – Figure Skating
Anjelika Reznik (Vaughan, ON) – Rhythmic Gymnastics
Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB) – Speed Skating
Cody Sorensen (Ottawa, ON) – Bobsleigh
Karine Thomas (Gatineau, QC) – Synchronized Swimming
Donna Vakalis (Toronto, ON) – Modern Pentathlon
Josh Vander Vies (Sarnia, ON) – Boccia
Dory Yeats (Montreal, QC) – Wrestling

For more information, please contact: Ashley LaBrie

Director, Athlete Relations & Strategic Partnerships AthletesCAN (613) 526-4025 x224 alabrie@athletescan.com www.athletescan.com

Investors Group, founded in 1926, is a national leader in delivering personalized financial solutions to Canadians through a network of over 4,600 Consultants located throughout Canada. In addition to an exclusive family of mutual funds and other investment vehicles, Investors Group offers a wide range of insurance, securities, mortgage and other financial services.

As the 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.

How to Overcome Fear

Josh Vander Vies looks at Nicola Godden's "Icarus" - a lifesize statue of a winged human figure.

It has been about 10 months now since the 2012 Paralympics. It seems that most people ask me the same question. “When you were at London 2012, how was the Paralympic Village?  What was that like?”

I usually respond by telling them that it was awesome.  There were people from every part of the world there, wearing every colour imaginable. They had an energy that you could actually feel. You saw expressions and body language, and knew that virtually everyone there meant business. They better have. We were all about to try and be the best in the world at something.

I also tell people that it was a taste of utopia, or socialism that works.  No one is using currency in the Village, all meals are free and there was a 24-hour cafeteria.  To get to any sport venue, hop on any bus at a depot just outside the Village. Dedicated London lanes were yours. Flash your accreditation badge and you had the best seats in the house at virtually any sport. Even the vending machines are not operated by coins, but unlimited swipe cards. My Lithuanian wife Dalia and I noticed that the currency-free, pseudo-socialism of the Village works because it has an army of volunteers, National Paralympic Committees and corporate sponsors behind it.

What I don’t always tell people is that I barely noticed any of that until afterwards. When I was actually in the Village, I was too terrified to do much other than think about my game plan, train, eat correctly and sleep.  The atmosphere was tense.

Feeling fear thunder through me, and continue on to win a Paralympic medal has made me reflect on the nature of fear.  The London Paralympics was certainly not the first or last time that I would be afraid, but the energy I was expending was so focused, that I think the experience was valuable.

I wanted so badly to do well.  And, I knew that if things did not go as planned, all the hours of work, all the things I gave up to be there, everything I had invested would lead to nothing.

Have you ever felt that fear?

I had felt it before, at the 2007 World Cup when I was trying to qualify for the Beijing Paralympics.  Fear was coursing through me.  In our game of millimetres, by the end of that competition, we came one point short from finishing in the top 8. Because of ranking points, I did not make the cut for Beijing.  But, I went to China as a spectator anyways and cheered my teammates on. I watched my competitors and learned.

I think what I learned the most, was about fear.  In the 4 years after Beijing, we eventually qualified for London 2012, but I was always afraid.  I was petrified on the court, and at training sometimes, as the overwhelming challenge of the world’s top athletes loomed.

So we became good friends fear and I.  I controlled it with breathing and intentioned thinking: I know I can beat the top athletes in the world because I have the innovative strategy to do it, and I have put in the training hours.

But what if they still beat me?

I passed a huge winged statue each day outside the dining hall, which I later learned was made by London artist Nicola Godden.  At first I only saw the visual. A sad and beautiful winged figure. I still remember reading the inscription on its base for the first time, as my stomach was in knots for the pinnacle of tournaments to come:

“My audacity was my joy not my disaster,
I reached a glory higher than Olympus,
My fall was worth the flight.”

Josh Vander Vies looks at Nicola Godden's "Icarus" - a lifesize statue of a winged human figure.

I realized it was Icarus.  When given wings to escape the island of Crete in Greek mythology by his father Daedalus, Icarus was told not to fly too close to the sun.  Overwhelmed by the thrill of soaring, he of course flew too high. The sun melted the wings’ wax, and Icarus drowned in the sea.

The statue and its words gave me final permission to fail.  Even if I did not win a Paralympic medal, I would go out in a blaze of trying something hard. That in itself would be worth it.

I ended up winning bronze with my doubles partner Marco, but I did not play as great as I did because I overcame fear.  I took the sheer terror of crashing into the sea those days in London last September – on the boccia courts in front of sold out crowds, and in the dining hall – and hung out with it.

I didn’t conquer it.