OTTAWA – With a goal of connecting more women with disabilities to opportunities in Paralympic sport and attracting more female athletes, the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is hosting a virtual event this spring specifically for female participants.
Taking place over two days, Saturday June 5 and Sunday June 6, the “Connection 2021” event will feature various information sessions, interactive workshops, and engagement opportunities. The event will be virtual and is an adapted form of CPC’s Paralympian Search series. Called “Connection 2021”, the event, being hosted as a pilot, is a shift to an innovative, more customized approach designed to welcome and support women. Led by women within the Canadian sport landscape, women of all sport experience backgrounds, including those new to sport or looking to try sport for the first time, are welcome to apply to participate.
“We know there are fewer women accessing Para sport in Canada, not only at the highest Paralympic level but also at the community and recreational levels,” said Karen O’Neill, CEO, Canadian Paralympic Committee. “This virtual event is just one innovative way by which we hope to encourage more women with a disability to participate in sport, and learn how we can create better environments within our sport system for female athletes. Our goal on June 5 and 6 is to offer safe, welcoming, and inclusive sessions as well as resources going forward so each participant has a positive experience and feels empowered to engage in sport and stay in sport.”
Typically a one-day event held in person, Paralympian Search has been hosted in various cities over the past few years including Toronto, Montreal, Victoria, Calgary, Ottawa/Gatineau, Halifax, and Kelowna. Due to COVID-19, this updated version has been re-imagined to be virtual, which will allow women from across Canada to connect with the event. CPC is working with a number of female researchers and experts in the disability and sport spheres to help shape the event’s format to build the best experience possible for participants.
Funding for the event was fully provided by the Innovation Initiative component of Sport Canada’s Sport Support Program. There is no cost for participants to attend. In order to create a welcoming environment in which each woman can participate fully, the event will be capped at 25 people.
Participants will learn about a variety of Para sports, including through presentations by Athletics Canada, Cycling Canada, Canoe/Kayak Canada, Nordiq Canada, Alpine Canada, and Canada Snowboard. Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, and Institut national du sport du Québec are also part of the event, and participants will hear from female leaders on their sport sciences teams.
Connections will be made with many female Paralympians and Para athletes as well, who will be involved as event ambassadors over the two days to share their experiences and answer questions. This includes Canadian Paralympic Hall of Famers Colette Bourgonje (Para nordic skiing and Para athletics) and Karolina Wisniewska (Para alpine skiing), Tokyo 2020 hopefuls Jennifer Brown (Para athletics), Marissa Papaconstantinou (Para athletics), and Andrea Nelson (Para canoe, and also a Paralympian Search alumnus), and Beijing 2022 hopeful Sandrine Hamel (Para snowboard). The complete list of athlete ambassadors can be found HERE.
“Paralympian Search was such a positive experience for me and set me on this incredible path in Paralympic sport, so I am really excited for the opportunity to help introduce more women to sport,” said Nelson, a 2017 Toronto Paralympian Search participant. “I think this is a really important initiative to show what opportunities are out there and the many ways that sport can be a part of people’s lives. I hope sharing my own story will help all of the women at the event feel confident and comfortable to start their own unique journey in Para sport.”
For more information about the virtual “Connection 2021” Paralympian Search and to express interest in attending this event, please visit Paralympic.ca/connection-2021.