Day 6 of the Paralympic Games
An incredible day today.
It started off with an early drive up to Whistler. If you've ever been along the sea-to-sky, you know that's a perfect way to wake up. The highway winds along the coast, perched on cliffsides of towering mountains, sprinkled with deep green trees and striped with sheer rock faces. To the left and down a steep drop, the ocean sparkles and islands and mountains fade in gradients of blue.
After a pit stop in Squamish we made our way to the Callaghan Valley to watch the long distance Biathalon events. We made it in time to see Men's and Women's 12.5 km Upright and Visually Impaired. It was fascinating to watch after seeing the Olympic version almost exactly a month ago.
Like in the Olympic version, the upright skiiers swayed rhymically, pumping their legs. Unlike their counterparts, many of them were propelled only by one pole. Some, managed to ski without any. One of these, was Josef Geisen, a German athlete competing in his fourth Paralympic Games.
We had the chance to speak with Josef's wife prior to his race, through a friendly translator. In smiling German, she expressed how proud she is of her husband - "Her man", her long journey from Germany here, and how she likes Vancouver and finds our mountains impressive. After having the chance to meet his family, we found ourselves cheering wildly for Josef as he skiied by, sharing in his Paralympic dream.
When he won his bronze, he jumped up and down, and strode in front of the crowd, bowing in joy. As everybody else found their eyes glued to Josef, I turned to my left, and caught a glimpse of the expression of sheer joy on his wife's face. It was then I truly understood the type of support and love that helps propel these elite athletes.
We visited Whistler Village after the event, where the energy is definitely palpable. As the host city of 62/64 Paralympic events, and every medal ceremony, the festivities are in full blast, with life music and fans left and right. We also checked out the newly built accessible playground, complete with a ramp and sensory wall.
After such a busy day, it was an evening drive home, once again along the Sea-to-Sky. As the sun dipped below the silhouettes of islands and mountains, staining the ocean golden, it occured to me that in more ways than one, I'd come full circle.
My first official Olympic event was the biathalon. My final official Paralympic event? Also the biathlon. It's been an incredible journey inbetween. I've learned so much and met so many people, and I know that throughout the next few weeks, as Sharing the Dream winds down, I'm in for even more experiences. And it's nice to think that I started it all the same way I ended the day, enjoying this beautiful place we live in.