Do you remember that feeling you got walking downtown before the Olympic Games started? How you could feel the city getting pumped up, and everyday you were more and more excited.
And do you remember that feeling when the Olympic Games ended? How everyone was dreading going back to reality.
I will admit, until yesterday I was still in that post-Olympic depression. But yesterday I switched over from that mood, to the Paralympic excitement stage.
First off I got to see the Paralympic torch relay as it was coming off the Peak to Peak gondola. Kirsten Sharp who was carrying the torch was in tears as she wheeled out the doors, being greeted by hundreds of people cheering, and later belting out O'Canada. I overheard an interview she was having with a reporter. She said it felt great to be back in Whistler with the sun shining, this is one of her favourite places in the world despite her traumatizing experience here. She had a skiing accident 19 years ago on this very mountain which left her a paraplegic. Obviously that moment 19 years ago has changed her life, however she said it isn't necessarily a negative thing. She doesn't see anything disabling about a disability, "you just have to have the determination to do it."
Next I hit up the celebrations at the village. There was much going on there, but I think the biggest hit was being able to get your pictures taken with the torches. There were so many torchbearers all over the place with their torches who were just delighted to have their pictures taken with you.
At Village Square there was live music, performances, and most importantly the lighting of the cauldron. Of course this was "unofficial" because the Games haven't started yet, but it was great to see all the people out, re-amping the spirit.
Sitskier Kees-Jan van der Klooster of the Netherlands was at the relay soaking up some of the spirit. I took the opportunity to talk to him, and ask him a few questions. K-J will be competing in the downhill, giant slalom and super-G in these Paralympic Games. I asked how he got involved with the Paralympic Games, and his reply was "Back in 2001, I had a snowboard accident in France and broke my back. Now I'm paralysed from the waist down, I wasn't going to let that keep me off the mountains so I decided to get into sit skiing." It was only one year after the accident that K-J got into sitwakeboarding and two years after he get into sit-skiing. K-J is now 33 years old, and seems to have a need for speed, his motto is "No fear!!" and his favourite quote is “Ride it like ya stole it!!” K-J was such a down-to-earth guy, it was great to talk to him. When asked if he had any superstitions, K-J said "If you don't have them, they won't let you down."
K-J won a gold medal in 2008 at the "MonoskierX winter X Games 12" in Aspen. And that same year won a gold in sitwakeboarding at the "Extremity Games Michigan". He is also the only athlete representing the Netherlands at these Paralympic Games, but I think he is a strong medal contender, and should do his country proud.
Did you know the first Paralympic Games were held in 1948, and most of these athletes were veterans of World War 2? I learned this from the big blow-up igloo in the Village which has all sorts of Paralympic information and interesting facts, and young kids could even take some shots as a sledge hockey player.
Here is the beautiful Paralympic rings in Whistler: