Now that my races were finished it was time to celebrate and let my hair down. It was a long build up to the games so I made the most of my free time!
Spare time in the village was filled with visits to the games room- the old school games of frogger and pacman were my favourite! Movie night was also a must; relaxing in the massive bean bags with freshly made popcorn in your own private room with a movie from the equally as massive DVD collection made for a great evening!
The dining hall was also a hit for social gatherings now that the ‘athletes diet’ was on a break, the chocolate cake and pizza were definitely a new item on my menu!
Days were spent cheering on team mates whether it be at Whistler Creekside (for Alpine) or at Paralympic Park (Nordic) as well as shopping and exploring Whistler Village.
Whilst at Paralympic Park I also checked out the ski jumping arena! This is where the Olympic athletes would compete in the jaw dropping sport of ski jumping- where athletes stand at the top of a insanely steep runway. The aim is to gain as much momentum until they jump off the end of the runway, glide through the air with the aim to land as far away as possible- whoever invented this sport was definitely crazy!
Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak-to-Peak Gondola is also a must. It holds the world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers (3.03km) and the highest point above the ground (436 metres). It also has several glass bottom gondolas which if you can handle heights is amazing to go in!
(View from inside the Gondola. If you follow the wires you can see where the mountain drops off leaving the Gondola high in the air on it's own!)
The Whistler nightlife was a favourite amongst all the athletes whether it be dinner at a restaurant, some drinks at a bar or hitting the dance floor at one of the clubs. We all had a great time finally being able to let our hair down and catch up with family and friends. I also had a lot of fun hanging out with all my fellow competitors who are also great friends, spending 4 months on the same race circuit means everyone knows everyone!
(An International Paralympic Committee sign in the Whistler village)
A huge privilege I received was being invited to dinner with some of Australia’s heads of sport from the Australian Olympic Committee, Australian Paralympic Committee, Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sport, Victorian Institute of Sport and some of the Australian Paralympic teams biggest supporters/ sponsors.
(Showing off my medal)
A huge celebration of my accomplishment topped off when I was introduced to Corrine Hunt, a Canadian designer/artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage who was one of the two creators of the Olympic and Paralympic medals (Canadian industrial designer and architect Omer Arbel, being the other). A great honour to actually meet one of the creators of my stunning one-of-a-kind medal! We spent a great deal of time chatting about the medals and she explained the whole story behind the medals and the inspiration in designing them. So much hard work and effort has been put into these medals and to see her passion for her creation was inspirational .She was equally as excited as I was the first athlete who had won a medal she had met. It was great to be able to show my love of the medal and appreciation of the time and effort they put into designing them. Everyone has commented that they are the best ever Paralympic/ Olympic medals and she was so excited to hear that from our group! We both had our cameras out taking snaps together, I felt so lucky that she happened to be there that night!
(Corrine, myself & APC President Greg Hartung)
I also met some of the VANOC marketing team and a lot of the International Paralympic Committee staff. It was incredible talking with them about the Games and how all the athletes were really enjoying the games.
Vancouver was given the privilege of hosting the 2010 Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2003 and to meet some of the staff who have been working on making the games perfect since then was very humbling, they could not stop telling me how amazing it was to actually see all their hard work come into life and to have athletes like me telling them how great the games were. It was an unbelievable evening meeting all these wonderful people and hearing all about the behind the scenes work that was put in to make the games as successful as they were.