WHITBY — Three-time Paralympic medallist Todd Nicholson, who played sledge hockey for Team Canada for 25 years and competed in five Paralympic Games, delivered an inspiring message of commitment and determination to students during Paralympic Schools Week at Whitby’s Abilities Centre, April 26.
“Never give up on your dreams,” was the message Nicholson repeated during his presentation to about 90 Grade 7 and 8 students from West Lynde P.S. in Whitby.
Nicholson told the story of how his childhood dream of playing NHL hockey was thwarted when he was 18, when a car accident left him with a broken back following his high school prom.
His doctors told him he would never walk again.
Nevertheless, with determination and the faith and commitment of his parents, Nicholson began his road to rehabilitation being involved in sports. He started to train with a wheelchair basketball team.
A year after his accident, Nicholson said, “I got to try out for a team that I didn’t think I could play for.” That team was the Canadian Paralympic Sledge Hockey Team. Nicholson said he still gets chills whenever he pulls the red Canada Hockey jersey from his knapsack.
Nicholson retired from competition in 2010, but his commitment to sport and the Paralympic movement remains strong, and he advocates for athletes on an off the field of play.
In January, Nicholson was named Team Canada’s Chef de Mission for the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
WHITBY — Todd Nicholson, a three-time Paralympic medallist in Para ice hockey and Team Canada’s Chef de Mission for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, made a special presentation to students from West Lynde Public School at the Abilities Centre as part of Paralympic Schools Week 2017. Nicholson shared his personal story and his journey in sport, as well as looking ahead to the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games set for March 9 to 18 in South Korea. April 26, 2017. – Ron Pietroniro / Metroland
“Physical activity isn’t just getting yourself active, it’s also engaging your brain,” said Nicholson. “What it can do for you and how it can help you to really expand your horizons and what it is you want to do with your life.”
Paralympic Schools Week is an annual coast-to-coast celebration of para sports and the Paralympic movement that promotes health active lifestyles for all Canadians.
Eric Cartlidge is regional manager of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charity that funded the event and also helps some of the programs that happen at the Abilities Centre. Cartlidge said about 100 schools were registered for the program nationwide.
The students later had a chance to try out a few para sports for themselves like floor volleyball, wheelchair basketball and para hockey on wheels in the Abilities Centre field house.
Nicholson said everyone encounters some obstacles in their life, “ It’s how you overcome those hurdles, how you surround yourself with the right people in order to realize what you want to do,” said the 49-year-old Ottawa- native, who went on to stress para sports are for everyone regardless of their abilities.
“I’m really hoping the kids get the opportunity to see that there’s absolutely nothing that with a little bit of practice and a little bit of time they’ll learn how to do it,” said Nicholson.
Shiraz Khan, a 13-year-old Grade 7 student, is used to kicking a soccer ball rather than playing para hockey, but said he had fun on the sledge “I had a really good experience,” said Khan who was inspired by Nicholson’s talk. “Some people with disabilities they try their best and they never give up.”
The 2018 Paralympic Winter Games are scheduled for March 9 to 18, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Canada expects to send a full team to compete in the five events of wheelchair curling, Para ice hockey (formerly known as sledge hockey), Para alpine skiing, Para snowboard and Para Nordic, which includes cross country and biathlon events.