By Belle Hatfield
Para-canoeist Dave Waters shared his inspiring story with students at Meadowfields Community School last Friday, Feb. 22 as part of Paralympic Schools Week. The week has been set aside to highlight the accomplishments of some of the country’s top athletes competing with a disability.
Waters was in his mid-twenties before he was diagnosed with CMT, a progressive form of muscular dystrophy. By the time he got a diagnosis, he had already developed a reputation as a tenacious competitor. He loved sports and he worked very hard, earning the name “bulldog” while in university. In a way, the diagnosis answered questions that had always haunted him. For the first time he understood why his determination and effort had only taken him so far in the sports he so loved. CMT attacks the lining of the nerves and it is progressive. The mis-firing weakens muscles and causes problems with balance and coordination. With the diagnosis, Waters re-doubled his efforts to remain athletic and, through the paralympics program, he is on track to reach his dream of becoming an Olympian.
He won his first international medal at the 2012 World Championships in Poland in May 2012 with a third-place finish in the Men’s V1 200 metre in the TA class. With Para-canoe now added to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Waters is training with the hopes of making his first paralympic team in 2016.
He wants to leave his young audiences with the understanding that it’s about abilities, not dis-abilities. Everyone, he said, has abilities.
“Find what works for you, where you fit and then go for it,” he said.
A competitive para-canoeist, Waters also plays sledge hockey recreationally and he brought along the sledge and modified sticks for the children to check out.
The Paralympic week is part of a cross-Canada effort to raise awareness about the 46 member sports organizations that make up the Canadian Paralympic Committee. It is dedicated to providing opportunities for para-athletes and strengthening the paralympic movement. Waters also visited the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School during his visit.