It was the most incredible, emotionally filled, nerve-racking, prideful, rollercoaster of an experience!! And that doesn't just describe how I feel in regards to my competition but also to watching Yushae and Steve compete at their first major event and having my family and friends there to support me!
We moved into the athletes village on August 2nd after having our final meeting with the incredible staff of Toronto 2015 to finalize things such as our events, the accommodations we would need in the village and checking all our accreditations ect. Mom (Team Bermuda's Chef de Mission aka team leader aka the big cheese!!) and I moved in first as the Chef has to be in the village before the rest of the team can arrive. Steve, his caregiver Milton, Yushae, her mom Ashanti, and Troy the Boccia coach joined us later that evening. Annabel our doctor, Sara who is on the Boccia Bermuda board, and Ann and Jeni who are the president and vice president of the Bermuda Paralympic Association joined us on the 6th. My coach Ken joined us later that week after his business trip to Miami. It was so wonderful to have such a big team at this event!! My family and friends also joined us at different times that week (a huge thank you goes out to Sheryl and her daughter Katie, my mom's college roommate, for driving from Boston to come support me)!
The athletes village was great! It was a lot smaller and compact than London's was so it was easy to find everything. The village had the accommodations, a poly-clinic, a games room, a gym with a pool, track and weight room, offices, an internet café, a dining tent, a plaza with a ticket booth, a Loblaws, a hair and nail salon, a café, a portable post office, a merchandise store and a display of all the 28 countries flags! As well as a couple of "small" chairs located around!!!
On August 6th we had our countries Welcoming Ceremony. This is a short ceremony held in the village where the countries flag is raised and is officially welcomed to the competition. We had our ceremony with Jamaica and Brazil! The next day was the Opening Ceremony. We had to get on a bus at 3:30 all dressed in our Bermuda shorts and blazers to head to York University where the ceremony was taking place, which was about 45 minutes away. Since there was so many athletes to transport they had to start loading early. To get to the stadium we had police escorts on motorcycles stopping traffic for all the buses (we were in bus 18 of 25 in a convoy, which was only the first group!!) It was an incredible operation to watch and our bus drivers didn't even have to brake once. We sailed right through all of the highways! Once we got there we hung out with all the countries as they arrived and were offered entertainment, food and drinks. The ceremony started at 7 and we were all ushered into parade order about 6.
The competition schedule for our team worked out well with having Yushae and Steve competing on the 9th and 10th and myself competing on the 12th-14th. So, we were able to attend each other's events and support each other. Yushae and Steve played their games with such determination and passion and it was a true honor to be a witness. They had the whole team on the edge of their seats the entire matches and I could not be more prouder of them and what they accomplished! They were incredible and I can't wait to watch them improve even more and go further in Boccia.
My teammate, Isaiah, competed in the 100m race on the 10th (representing Canada) and it was great to watch him compete. Unfortunately, he had to race in the rain but he still put on an amazing performance and I am so proud of him. He is a great friend and teammate and was so nice to come out to the track the next few days to help me get ready for my races so I didn't have to train alone!
I had the 400m and 100m semi final on the 12th. Since there was 9 athletes in the two events we had two heats. In order to qualify for the finals you had to be in the top 3 of your heat and then the next 2 fastest times made up the 8 people for the final. I was 2nd in my heat for the 400m and clocked the third fastest time overall and I came first in my heat in the 100m with the fastest time of 16.85, which is a PB for me! But unfortunately it did not count for the ParaPan Am record as the tailwind was too strong to be a legal time. But that only gave me more confidence and motivation to get that record in the 100m final. Also, the fact that my mentor Anjali was the previous record holder. It is a true honor to have taken it from her (with her blessing of course!! :))
August 13th, 2015 will be a day that I will never forget! I had the 800m final in the early afternoon and the 100m final in the early evening. I wasn't too thrilled with my 800m race but after talking with my coach Ken he was able to help me put it into perspective and point out the positives and to refocus for the 100m race. This year we are focusing mainly on my 100m and 200m and will work through the off season training on getting me stronger and more powerful for the longer races. I warmed up for the 100m by doing laps varying my speed and doing a couple of practice starts. Every push I did I became more confident in myself and just wanted to get out on that track and do what I have been doing all racing season. On the start line all I could think about was my technique, the 20m mark (which is the line my coach and I discussed about where we wanted the race to be over by, meaning I was ahead at that point), the finish line and having that desire to cross it first. The starter said on your marks, I took a deep breathe, then set and the gun went. I started pushing as hard as I could and then the gun went off a second, third and fourth time meaning there was a false start and we had to return to the start line to start the race again. It was pretty nerve racking to find out who false started (even though I was confident it wasn't me because in racing if you have a false start you are out of the race). But it ended up being no charge, so I'm not sure what happened. We then had to shake that off and start the race again, this time with a clean start. I pushed down on the wheels as hard and as fast as I could and I didn't stop until I crossed that line and I couldn't believe I had done it...I had won gold and set the new ParaPan Am Games record. It was so surreal!!
We then had the closing ceremonies on the 15th where Steve got to carry the flag and he did it with just as much ride and Yushae. As the games came to a close and I watched the flame go out I was truly grateful for this amazing experience. We checked out of the village and I returned home yesterday (August 17th) to an incredible welcome by Senator Jeff Baron, many people from the press, Bermuda's town crier and family and friends. Thank you Bermuda for all your support during this exciting time!! As well as all of the incredible people who have supported me along this amazing journey...especially my family and friends. To my coach Ken for all he does, to my weight trainers Chris and Scott, to my amazing teammates, to the volunteers and organizers of the games (especially Dianne, Jeff, Dan and Julie), to the press in Bermuda, St. Catherines, and Brock University...thank you, thank you, thank you!! I honestly couldn't do it without all of your support!
Now it's time to enjoy some time at home with family and friends and then return to Canada to start my fifth year at Brock and get ready for World Championships in October in Doha, Qatar. This is just the beginning!!!
- Desire, Dream, Vision -