ParaSport Ontario Profiles
 

Giving Back
In Profile with Faye Blackwood

ParaSport Ontario Magazine

Whether as an athlete, coach, volunteer, or award winner, Faye Blackwood’s love of sports and dedication to developing and promoting it for others has inspired and awed many over the years.

Faye first became involved with sports for athletes with a disability during her time at the University of Waterloo. During her work terms, she always sought out placements where she could work with people with disabilities. In the fall of 1981, she landed a job teaching adaptive physical education to “special ed” students in Scarborough.

Faye is an accomplished athlete herself, a former 100m hurdle track and field athlete. She competed on Canada’s National Team from 1983-1987. When she retired as an athlete, she put her energy into coaching athletes with disabilities, something that was in great need. “I saw that there really wasn’t any coaching for these athletes. So I started volunteering, informally coaching in the fall of 1988, and have been coaching officially ever since.”

But coaching has been only one aspect of Faye’s volunteer duties. She has served on countless committees, including the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Games Committee. She has sat on the Paralympics Ontario Games Council, serving as the Chair of this committee since 2006. Faye has been a member of the Paralympics Ontario Board of Directors since 2003 and presently holds the position of VP of Competitions. This year she is focusing on mentoring. “I am mentoring a coach who wants to do his level 3. It’s been exciting,” Faye says.

Faye was surprised and delighted to be chosen as the recipient of the 2007 Ron Foster Award for her enduring and impacting volunteer commitment. Of her many achievements, Faye says that winning the Ron Foster Award is probably her greatest accomplishment. “The recognition was pretty amazing. It totally caught me off guard and was a total surprise,” Faye confesses. Add that to another career highlight - winning the Female Coach of the Year Award for the Province of Ontario in 1997.

When asked about favourite memories Faye quickly points to the success of others. For her, she recounts her wonderful experience at the Barcelona Paralympic Games in 1992, where she was a coach. “I had four athletes and every one of them either won a medal or reached a personal best. One of my athletes won gold!” Faye emphasizes the importance of giving back to sports. “I want to continue to contribute because sport has been really good to me. Being on the national team and being able to travel to compete around the world… it was incredible. In return, if I can help or guide even one athlete in their lives, I’ll do it … it’s well worth it.”

Faye makes a habit of keeping in touch with her athletes after their athletic careers are complete, something she loves to do. “Her athletes have gone on to do great things outside of sport and credit Faye for the confidence that she provided them through sports. “Sports gave them the confidence to believe in themselves, and to do whatever they want,” she deflects. But there is no denying that the friendships and connections Faye has made continue to enrich and reward her life. In fact, one of her former athletes had twin girls, and asked Faye to be the Godmother. “I have no complaints about what sports have done for me,” Faye smiles.


Heart of the Matter
In Profile with Amanda Fader

ParaSport Ontario Magazine

Why does Amanda Fader coach? One word: Goosebumps. “Goosebumps brought about by an athlete crossing the finish line with a personal best performance is why I coach,” Amanda explains. That excitement and dedication to her athletes is only part of why Amanda is Paralympics Ontario’s 2008 Coach of the Year. The other part is all heart.

Amanda has coached wheelchair track for the past 12 years. She started her coaching career in the able-bodied world, but it wasn’t long before she began working with athletes with disabilities. She was recruited to the Auto Alliance Track and Field Club, and never looked back. “I got hooked, and have been a wheelchair coach ever since I caught the coaching bug,” Amanda tells. “Being able to be diverse in my abilities to coach all levels has enabled me to grow as a coach,”

Amanda says. “I’ve been involved with sports my entire life and catching the coaching bug has enabled me to participate from a totally different perspective.” Amanda says she loves the excitement that wheelchair sports offer. “What really hooked me was the fast pace, the strategy of wheelchair racing, the sounds, lots of laughs, hard work, and good times.” Amanda has had many special moments during her coaching career. She remembers the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens in particular, where she was selected as a coach for the Canadian Team. She was ecstatic when one of her own athletes won the silver medal. “She had the race of her life. She had the best start of her career and secured a silver medal. To say I was proud is an understatement.” Right before the race, she remembers finding a collectors’ edition 2 Euro piece in the middle of the huge crowd. “It was my lucky 2 Euro piece,” she laughs.

This year is a big year for Amanda as well. She is currently balancing her coaching time between a beginner and a veteran athlete, and is enjoying the challenges of meeting her athletes’ diverse needs. She is also involved with a world junior team this summer.

As for the future, Amanda hopes that the Ontario ParaSport Summer Games will continue to grow. “I would love to see the number of athletes increase, with full teams going to the Games, and more athletic events.”

Outside of coaching, Amanda works as Executive Director of the Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports Association. She enjoys gardening, and spending time at the cottage, and has developed a new interest in making pottery. But at the heart of her life is sport. “My entire life is sport, from working to volunteering. I’m involved in all kinds of different areas of sport, from a career standpoint and a personal commitment with my free time.”


Power Play
In Profile with Sally Thomas

ParaSport Ontario Magazine

Powerlifter Sally Thomas, 37, is proof that talent can be discovered unexpectedly. At age 10, Sally’s parents introduced her to track and field. She won her first race. Years later, her track coach made each team member do a strength test, and Sally’s results were astounding. “I beat everyone, including the boys,” Sally remembers.

Witnessing Sally’s great gift, the coach encouraged her to start powerlifting. In powerlifting, she has found her niche, and much success. “This is definitely my sport,” she says. Sally has won nine medals at the 12 events she has competed in since her first competition in 2001. At her first meet, Sally used a substitute coach. “He asked me how much I could lift, and I didn’t know. He just put the weights on the bar, and I didn’t know how much I was lifting. I think it was about 100 pounds right off the start.” From that competition, Sally made the national team.

Competitive sports are a huge part of Sally’s life. She has spina bifida and says that sports have taught her a lot about herself. “Sport has meant a lot to me, and that’s why I keep doing it,” Sally shares. “It has taught me many things, but focus and perseverance may be the two biggest.”

Sally tried many different sports before she found the right one for her, and encourages other athletes to keep trying until they find their sport. “Go for it. Find something you like to do, and figure out a way to do it,” she promotes. “I don’t give up easily. I don’t like to take no for an answer. Stubborn is good when it comes to athletics,” she grins.

Sally trains four days a week, both with a coach and independently. In addition to powerlifting, she also plays on a Division II basketball team once a week.

For the Ontario ParaSport Summer Games, Sally says she is focused on improving her technique to prepare for international competition. “I’ll try to work on what I need to do to be successful internationally.”

Sally has been selected to the 2008 Canadian Paralympic Team, and is looking forward to the Games in Beijing in September.

A certified personal trainer herself, she enjoys helping people through training but doesn’t particularly like the business side of the job. She wants to work with children, and aspires to be a teacher. “I’d like to work with troubled kids… teaching when it’s not a business. “I like teaching and I like inspiring people.”


Life in the Fast Lane
In Profile with Naveed Islam

ParaSport Ontario Magazine

Five years ago, Naveed Islam experienced a fateful day that changed the course of his life. While in the hospital being fitted for a prosthesis for his below-knee amputation, Naveed spotted a Paralympics Ontario magazine. “I grabbed the magazine and got involved right away,” Naveed remembers. Naveed has never looked back. The 30-year-old participates in track and field events, including the 100m, javelin, discus and shot put, and has achieved phenomenal success in the short time he has been competing. He has won gold medals at every provincial level competition he has competed at since 2004. In 2007, he not only won gold at the Ontario ParaSport Summer Games, but repeated that feat at the national level - all without the benefit of a personal coach.

Naveed lists Terry Fox as one of his heroes. “Terry Fox is a big sign of encouragement. He symbolizes Canada. Everybody knows him and what he did, and is encouragement for everybody.” Like Terry Fox, Naveed hopes to encourage and inspire others by raising awareness. His mission is to inform people with disabilities about the ParaSport Games. By doing so, he hopes to change lives, and help others realize their potential. “When I tell someone that they can get involved in the Games and express themselves, they have a moment of happiness,” Naveed says. “Athletes with a disability should avail themselves of this opportunity. I’m focusing on informing others about the Games so they can express themselves.”

Naveed also says that sponsorship is crucial to help ParaSport athletes reach their potential. “I need a special prosthesis for running, and I don’t have it because it is very, very expensive. Athletes need to have support or sponsorship from companies or organizations.” In his youth Naveed participated in track and field in his native Pakistan. He appreciates the opportunity to compete in Canada. For Naveed, competition is as natural as breathing. “I compete because I’m a sportsman, and sportsmen have to compete. If you’re not competing, your training and sports are useless. Everything you do has a purpose, and competing is a way to keep you active and in good form.”

Naveed trains five to six days per week, at the track or for two to three hours at the field across from his home or at the gym. Without his own coach, he watches a lot of video of coaches and athletes. Primed for his fifth year of competition, Naveed hopes to win his fifth straight gold medal at the 2008 Ontario ParaSport Summer Games. His sights are set on international competition, and dreams of one day being a world champion.

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