OTTAWA - More than 300 elementary students put aside their pencils and notebooks for hockey sticks and curling rocks on Tuesday at the University of Ottawa for the second Team Canada Jumpstart Games.
It’s the first event of a two day Team Canada Celebration for Canadian Olympians and Paralympians that concludes Wednesday with receptions at Rideau Hall and Parliament Hill.
‘’It’s always an honour to represent your country on the world stage,’’ said wheelchair curling bronze medallist Mark Ideson, one of six PyeongChang Paralympians at the Jumpstart event. ‘’To be welcomed back with open arms is really special.’’
A ceremony was held outdoors under the Big Top nearby the Montpetit Hall gym featuring greetings from special dignitaries including The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and Scott Fraser, President, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
Then the students headed to the gym to try sports and Para sports such as curling, hockey and snowboard with their Olympic and Paralympic heroes.
Besides Ideson, the other Paralympians on hand were Para alpine skier Alexis Guimond, Para snowboarders John Leslie and Curtis Minard as well as Para ice hockey players Rob Armstrong and Tyrone Henry.
‘’It was great to see our athletes again,’’ said Todd Nicholson, Team Canada’s Chef de Mission at the 2018 Paralympic Games. ‘’It’s wonderful how they want to give back to their communities and the youth of our country. For these kids it’s a real education to try these sports in an adaptive setting.’’
Guimond, who contributed a bronze to Canada’s record 28-medal haul at the Winter Paralympics, can only imagine how excited he would have been at that age to play sports with real Olympians and Paralympians.
‘’This is an incredible opportunity Canadian Tire Jumpstart is giving to these kids to try out these sports that many don’t have access to,’’ said Guimond, while he showed his medal to wide-eyed kids. ‘’At their age I would have been very excited about it.’’
One of the most popular stations was hockey and Para ice hockey. Henry is thrilled to introduce his sport to a new generation of kids.
‘’It’s real exciting to see how these kids are enjoying Para hockey,’’ said the Games silver medallist as the next group strapped themselves to gym floor friendly sleds. ‘’It brings awareness and interest to the sport. Having them try it out so young we hope they will try it on ice and maybe play it one day in the future.’’
Leslie summed up the goal of the event.
‘’At the end of the day you want to get more kids involved in sport,’’ he said.