Author: Hanus, Miranda
Date published: November 1, 2011
A new program by Sask Sport Inc. hopes to inspire young Aboriginal people to look to sports opportunities and promote healthy active lifestyles.
The Aboriginal Champions Program was launched Oct. 26. Six athletes were chosen to represent and encourage young Aboriginal people into sports.
One of those champions is paralympian Colette Bourgonje of Prince Albert.
The 49-year-old Métis woman has been competing in crosscountry skiing (sit-ski) events since 1992 and has won 10 medals at nine Paralympic Games across the world.
Bourgonje was an able-bodied athlete in high school, competing as a cross-country runner and doing "whatever sports small town Porcupine Plain offered."
After a car accident in 1980 left her paralyzed from the waist down, Bourgonje said she had to find a new way to keep active. She was pursuing a career as a physical education teacher - and it led her to discover sports for people with disabilities.
Bourgonje began wheelchair racing in 1984.
In 1991, she discovered sitskiing.
"When I discovered crosscountry skiing, it was probably closer to what I did as an ablebodied cross-country runner as far as how much strength and cardio it required. So it gave me a great workout. For me, crosscountry skiing has been amazing. It's a lifetime skill, for sure," she said.
Another bonus for Bourgonje was being able to sit up and see the venue unlike wheelchair racing in which the athlete's head stays down, facing the pavement.
Bourgonje has no plans to retire anytime soon.
"This is a great lifestyle, I'm still enjoying it I might as well keep going for a few more years. But I'm taking it one year at a time. I'm definitely enjoying this competitive season for sure," said Bourgonje.
She said she just returned from training camp in New Mexico, where the sit-ski is placed on a mountain board and covering rough terrain in high and low altitudes.
"I cross-country ski at the international level. I've been a wheelchair racer at the international level. I've travelled all over the world and had some amazing opportunities because I have been involved with sports," said Bourgonje.
"You are who you are regardless of what doors are opened or closed to you."
Also selected for the Champions Program are golfer Bill Cameron Sr. from the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation; provincial table tennis team member, Delvin Cappo from the Carry the Kettle First Nation; Jacqueline Lavallee, a Métis and former Canada West soccer all-star and All-Canadian basketball coach; University of Saskatchewan Huskies basketball captain Michael Linklater from the Thunderchild First Nation; and Saskatchewan ringette silver medalist Teagan Marion from the James Smith First Nation.
Sask Sport will be mailing resources to all schools, Tribal Councils, Métis locals and First Nations across the province.
BY MIRANDA HANUS