Pre Paralympic Speaking Tour in London Schools

Photo Courtesy of EG Focus

With just 100 days to go before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it feels great to announce that I will spend the end of June leading motivational assemblies in various London schools – in the Olympic Park area.  An old Canadian high school friend of mine, who now works in London as a teacher, asked me to speak at her school.  I jumped at the chance and she put me in touch with a group of teachers who are champions of Olympic and Paralympic Values, in the London Borough of Newham.

Soon, I got in touch with many passionate teachers and a week of exciting presentations unfolded.  To date, I will be speaking at Central Park Primary School, Colegrave Primary School, Avenue Primary School, Essex Primary School, and Kingsford Community School.  My agenda will include visiting classrooms to inspire students individually and attending events that schools have underway to celebrate the excitement of London 2012!

This will be my first time in London, and I can not wait to meet with and learn from students there, like I do from students in schools across Canada.  Most importantly, I am excited to show them the sport of boccia, let them try it out, and give them a new favourite sport to watch for during the Paralympics.

I can feel the excitement in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games across the ocean here in Canada.  It will be great to be in the thick of it at the end of June.  I spoke in several schools in Vancouver leading up to the Winter Games in 2010 and I know that London students will be just as excited!

A very limited amount of time slots are left during my time in London for a motivational assembly or keynote presentation at schools, businesses or associations between 26th June – 29th June.  To learn more about my message of being born without arms and legs, going on to compete on the World stage, studying at a high level and shattering obstacles, see how I Motivate Audiences.

With just 100 days to go before the Paralympics, I am tightening up my game, strengthening my body and mind, and getting ready to compete.  The pressure and excitement is on!  So is my focus.

Reflections on Athens 2004 Paralympics and Beyond

Athens 2004 Paralympics Boccia

The stadium in Athens was at its capacity – 85 000.  As I lined up with my fellow Canadian athletes, I could hear the roar of the crowd.  It was muffled.  We were outside the arena and the air was not still.  It shook.

When I crossed the threshold, saw the mass of people celebrating, and heard the deafening cheer of voices pounding elite athletes from around the world, I smiled.  I had made it.  I represented Canada at the 2004 Paralympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece and finished amongst the top Boccia players on the planet.

Some years earlier, my mom Sandy, came out of the caesarean delivery of her first-born very groggy, as her husband Gary waited eagerly in another room.  My mom had had an uneventful pregnancy and had to deliver me caesarean style, because I was breech.  As she shook off the drugs, she asked the nurse: “Is it a boy?”  The nurse replied that it was, with a small smile.  Sandy then asked: “Does he have any hair?”  The nurse didn’t know – she was preoccupied with other, seemingly disastrous features.

The doctors explained to my parents that I had been born missing all of my limbs and gave a prediction of my future so bleak that my parents blurted out: “Is he going to die?!”  The doctors, a little surprised, laughed and said no that I was perfectly healthy, just without most of my arms and legs.  My parents wanted to see me.

When I was brought out to them for the first time, they both took turns kissing me all over and telling me that they loved me.  They spent the rest of my life, so far, showing me.Born without arms and legs

They encouraged me to set hard goals and do what it takes to achieve them.  Instead of putting me into a segregated school for children with disabilities, like the experts advised, my parents – unilingual English speakers – enrolled me in a local French immersion school so that I would have a bit more of a challenge!

As I grew, I became interested in physical activity.  I joined a swim team for athletes with disabilities and soon competed in Swimming, Shot Put, Discus and Javelin.  Then I discovered Boccia – the international Paralympic indoor version of the Italian past time – and was hooked on the intense skill, precision, strategy and competition of pushing myself to get better and better.

Not having hands or full legs presents many tough obstacles.  And, like any obstacles that seem insurmountable, they can be shattered.  Some I overcame naturally: I learned to write, play and draw by watching my friends.  Others I had help with before I could help myself: my dad built me parallel bars and my mom encouraged me to use them to practice walking upright.  Other obstacles, I stared at head on and came up with solutions: learning to dress myself when I was 13, becoming an early riser in my mid twenties, and the more recent realisation that what others think about me, doesn’t matter.

I love not having arms and legs, and I love myself (maybe too much – ask anyone who knows me!).  I love the things I can do.  And, I love the things I can’t do, yet.

You should love yourself too.  No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you have the ability to surprise yourself.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not I have an effect when I visit schools, or speak to audiences.  My partner, Dalia, and I were watching a show at the Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts, and at intermission a couple I didn’t recognise, approached us.  One of them was a teacher at a local school I had presented at; she told me that the students were organising a sports day – several months after I had presented – and they insisted that Boccia be included in the program.  An outdoor version was included, and was a great success bringing students of all abilities and backgrounds together in friendly competition.

Sometimes I surprise myself.

At a recent corporate presentation, the nicest lady approached me afterwards in tears and told me that my message had affected her in a very personal way.  Neither of us could find the words to express ourselves further, so we hugged and smiled and cried.

Sometimes I really surprise myself.

“Josh” Finalist in Prestigious International Film Festival

The short documentary “Josh,” by amazing Vancouver film maker Angelina Cantada, was accepted as a finalist in the 2011 MY HERO International Film Festival on Friday.  Winners of the festival will be announced on November 7th; Angelina and I are very happy to be among the finalists in such a prestigious festival!

From the My Hero International Film Festival acceptance letter:

“All 2011 winning films will be featured in our virtual screening room (  These films will become part of our ever-growing Global Hero Archive.  MY HERO honors the subjects of certain films with special Hero Awards, in which case we will screen a clip from that project.

This year we had more films submitted to the Festival than ever before, and are very excited about our slate of films.   Congratulations again on becoming a finalist in such an illustrious group.”
The short video is below.  I am hearing great things about this film everywhere I go – have a look!


Section 24: Protest Guidelines

This is a series of rule change submissions that I made on January 13, 2013 to BISFed in response to their draft changes.  The international boccia rules change every four years, after the Paralympic Games.  You can find my other submissions here.  I am presenting them on individual pages, so that you can comment on each proposal separately.

BISFed Proposed change:

No substantive changes proposed.

My proposed change:

[The clause not accepting video and photo evidence must be removed.]


More evidence is generally fairer than less evidence.  Many nations routinely take photo and video recordings of matches, and this should be valid evidence in a protest.  The number of nations who do not have access to video equipment is now very low.

In many sports – elite and professional – video evidence is now allowed, not only in protests, but also in challenging on-court/field referee decisions.  Video can often be the perfect witness.  It is neutral, and replays the event exactly as it happened.  Human witnesses always have some form and degree of bias.