Adaptive skiers inspire

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Paralysis, amputation or blindness does not slow these athletes down one bit.

The 2007 Canadian Adaptive Water Ski Championships, which will be held this weekend at Transcona's Lake Shirley, is sure to be one of the more inspirational sporting events in Winnipeg this summer.

"It's quite amazing, actually," said Jim Desjardins, the Water Ski-Wakeboard Manitoba past-president who will chair the event. "... There are no boundaries anymore, and there shouldn't be."

RELATIVELY NEW

Adaptive water skiing is relatively new to Manitoba, and it's not much older across the rest of Canada. As a result, there will be only nine or 10 athletes, from Saskatchewan to the Maritimes, competing this weekend.

They promise, however, to put on a heck of a show that will amaze all who take it in. Athletes who are paralysed or have had amputations will strut their stuff on devices called "sit skis."

"They'll slalom like classic skiing, they do tricks on a trick board, and they even go over the ski jump," Desjardins said. "The visually impaired slalom, but they do it by sound, because they can't see the balls, obviously, and a sound device goes off when they're supposed to cross the wake. And they even jump."

There is one visually impaired skier, from Saskatchewan, scheduled to compete this weekend, and if he attempts a jump it will mark the first time that a Canadian has done it in a competition.

The goal for this weekend's competitors is a spot on the national team that will compete in the next world championships, in 2009. Two Manitobans, Sean Gilmour and Darrin Luke, will be among the athletes trying to impress the national team coaches.

No Manitoban has ever made the national team.

"Not yet, but after this event I'm sure there will be," Desjardins said. "... Shawn will hopefully set a Canadian record in a trick event and be on the world team one day."

There would have been more Manitobans in the event, Desjardins said, but some are wary about giving it a go in an actual competition.

"It's a relatively new program," he said. "Our participation level in Manitoba is pretty high, except a lot of them aren't committed to competing yet."

Those numbers are expected to increase, however, as the provincial association is attracting more and more athletes to its weekly adaptive skiing night.

The action goes tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lake Shirley is located on Murdoch Road, a few hundred metres south of Dugald Road.


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