My Experience at the 2011 Para Pan-American Games in Guadalajara Mexico

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My experience at the Para Pan-Am Games was memorable from start to finish.  The Canadian team as a whole were all so bursting with energy and excitement every day prior and during the competition.  Canadian flags coloured our walls and windows and the spirit of Canada spread further into the athlete village and sport venues with the maple leaf on our chests.  On the track Team Canada did amazing!  We earned as a team 16 medals with a number of personal bests and positive learning experiences. It was wonderful to be a part of my team mates’ successes as we left our mark on the track.

I raced the 100m and 200m with my guide runner Simon.  It was such a cool experience to have 12,000 fans cheering for you.  It felt like Canada was a favourite next to Mexico, the hosting country of the Games.  Simon and I raced hard and left it all on the track.  We finished 6th in both the 100m and 200m out of all the athletes from the 42 participating countries at the event.  We will take the overall experience from the Games and add it to our tool box as we continue to prepare for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, England.

Check out this youtube link where the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) summarized the highlights of Day 2 of the event.  I am one of the athletes that was featured:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-CffVhzfGs

Overcoming Obstacles

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At a very young age, our family struggled to explain the learning and communication difficulties I was experiencing.  After years of inquiry and medical appointments, I was finally diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, Cone-Rod Dystrophy.  Over the years, my vision has progressively decreased and I may eventually be completely blind.  Despite the uncertainly of what lays ahead, I pick myself up and keep going.  I try to adopt a positive view and approach to life.  Everyday there is some form of obstacle to overcome, whether that is in school, when learning tools or instruction is unclear or in the sporting world when ignorance/ closed thinking hinders my goals.  I train over 20 hours a week, while maintaining my studies at university. Sometimes by the time I get home from track, there is much homework to be done.  My visual impairment typically requires, at least, double the time to do homework.  So it becomes a challenge to meet homework deadlines, track schedules, and volunteer commitments.  I am very good at time management—I have to be, in order to fit it all in, but also meet high academic standards (e.g., honour roll status).

That said, my approach to overcoming obstacles is to educate and inform the public, especially those who harbour old views in terms of disability.  At the same time, I realize that I must also stay informed, and therefore, learning will be a live-long pursuit. I believe that boulders along the path are not necessarily my biggest obstacles, but rather the pebbles in my shoes. In addition, I believe that ‘balance’ is very important in attaining my academic, sporting, and social goals.  Heck, there are times it is difficult to just be an average young adult, yet I am not sure I really know what average is, as I always strive for excellence.  I hold dear the love and support that family, friends, and the community provide and harness this to stay fixed on my dreams.

Benefits Gained from Sport

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Jacqueline Rennebohm

Getting ready to do a workout

Through my fitness and sport participation, I have gained self-confidence, organization, social skills, tenacity, patience, assertiveness, leadership, creativity and passion.  For example, t

hese attributes are required to maintain years of the training demands, along with the pressures of improving performance/ personal best times, and reach the podium.  With each new sporting achievement comes a new goal to aspire towards.   Fundamentally, participation in sport benefits my health and it also spills over into my school life.  These same attributes help me achieve high academic performance as well.

Organized amateur athletics and fitness have been a major part of my life.  My family has always instilled in me the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  At the same time, we are grateful to have opportunities to pursue fitness, exercise, sport, good nutrition, etc.  Our family supports children in third-world countries who have few opportunities and we hope to make a difference in the lives of global communities.  I do the best that I can with what I have, because I realize that there are many in this world that have not.  Yes, I am blind, but the rest of my body works! So let’s get started…

Career and Sport Goals

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My career aspirations are to work in the field of environmental health, with national and international government agencies and organizations.To this end, I am pursuing a unique environmental health degree at the University of Western Ontario in London, with the aim to address how the environment impacts our health.My long-term goal is to extend this knowledge and obtain a master’s degree related to global environment and health. Through my sport experience in international competition, I have developed an appreciation for the diversity of cultures, environment, and health.My desire is to make a difference in the world by promoting health within local and global communities, with an emphasis on advocating for persons with disabilities.

As a national team track athlete with a disability, I have learned to appreciate opportunities that come with hard work, as well as the importance of positive role models to guide me along the way. My dream is to compete for Canada at the 2012 London Paralympics. My community volunteerism, swimming and track pursuits have fueled a desire to promote and advocate for healthy living for all people within a sustainable environment. My goal is to share my experiences with others and in some small way, motivate others to pursue excellence, explore possibilities, contribute to society, and reach their potential.