Forest stands tall at Paralympics

BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:33 PM ET

WHISTLER - Mission accomplished for Viviane Forest, who won her fifth medal of the 2010 Winter Paralympics on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Edmontonian, who skis with Whistler guide Lindsay Debou, took silver in the super combined for visually impaired skiers at Whistler Creekside. Forest also won gold in downhill, silver in slalom and super giant slalom and bronze in giant slalom.

A groin injury and related sickness coupled with stormy conditions on Tuesday nearly ended her medal count at one.

"That injury, it started to play on my brain,” said Forest, a native of Greenfield Park, Que. “I was really nervous about whether I would be able to perform."

Legally blind Forest has only four percent of her vision and communicates during races with Debou, her guide since 2009, via a radio headset inside her helmet. Forest won gold in the super combined at the 2009 world championships and silver medals in the downhill, giant slalom, slalom and super giant slalom. Nothing could be sweeter than winning Paralympic medals on Canadian snow.

"For me it's three years working, training six days a week through injury, physio, rehab,” Forest said. “It's so much more than the minute you see on TV today. I cannot count the hours. It's priceless."

Forest is no stranger to Creekside where she won gold in the giant slalom and downhill and silvers in super combined and super giant slalom at a 2009 International Paralympic Committee world cup event.

"It's very important so people can know what we are doing even if we are blind or have a physical disability, we can accomplish big things, in sport, in work, in life,” Forest said. “We are just as normal as you are. We have the same emotions, just a few more bumps in the road."

Skiing wasn’t her first Paralympic love. Forest won gold medals at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympics in goalball. Two teams of three compete to roll a basketball-sized ball across a gymnasium into a nine-metre wide, 1.5 metre high goal. Athletes are challenged to use their sense of hearing because they must wear black goggles. Forest retired from goalball in 2005 and became a competitive skier in 2007.

Forest was one of three Canadian athletes to win silver on March 14, the second day of competition. Her early success inspired roommate Karolina Wisniewska to win bronze on Monday in a standing event.

“We've been teammates forever,” said Vancouver skier Wisniewska. “I woke up the morning of the slalom event and (her) silver medal was sitting on the table with a note saying, 'It's your day today.' And it happened, I can't believe it."

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca


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