Wow, I am excited having just received confirmation of my selection to the para archery team for the 2015 Toronto Para Pan Am Games. Unbelievably it has been 15 years since my last multi sport games, the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.
I started competing in the sport of archery as a person with a disability in 1982 at the Ontario Games for the Physically Disabled in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and that was followed with the Canadian Games for the Physically Disabled in Sudbury in 1983. Then on to my first Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandaville England in 1984. I remember that experience like it was yesterday. I had heroes like Rick Hanson and Andrea Vigre to inspire me, and inspire me they did as I competed in the next 4 consecutive Paralympic Games and missed qualifying for what would have been my 6th games in Athens Greece. It was after returning from a Championships of the Americas tournament in Venezuela that I decided it was time to retire after 22 years of high performance sport.
As I reflect back over all those years of disciplined training and sacrifice I’m sure the people around me must have wondered what could possible motivate someone to continue in a sport over such a long period.
When I was first injured and became a paraplegic I remember being very dependent on others, having very little confidence and self esteem, and feeling like I no longer fit in. It was through my participation in sport that I found my foundation as a person with a disability. Sport has provided challenges and accomplishments that allowed me to regain my confidence and self esteem. Through the training and attention to healthy living that is required in high performance sport I am strong, independent and healthy again. This awesome transformation is what has motivated me to be a high performance athlete for all these years.
So how did I go from retiring from sport in 2004 to making the team for the Para Pan AM Games in 2015. It was simply that I retired from a 35 year career with the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2008 and despite being very active in other sports like nordic skiing, hand-cycling, kayaking, and sledge hockey ,I missed the competitive aspect of sport. So in 2010 I took up archery again but this time in the disciple of the compound bow vs the recurve. In 2011 I made the national team and once again started traveling to international tournaments.
So here I am, looking forward to competing at my first ever home games. What an awesome experience it will be. I can hardly wait!
Alec Denys – July, 2015