As I am going through my facebook page, I had to repost a picture that I saw that someone posted from London. A gigantic publicity Billboard poster with the title saying “Thanks for the warmup (Talking about the Olympics), the paralympic games on channel 4”. I just loved that picture and I could not resist to share it on my own facebook page. So true, the 2012 London paralympic games are coming with the opening ceremonies being held on august 29th. And its coming faster than expected. I am so excited about the fact that these London Paralympic Games will be my 3rd time around. Competing in my opinion, in the most electrifying event of the games, wheelchair basketball, I really consider my teammates and I very blessed to be able to experience this extraordinary moment as we are aiming to bring back a 3rd Gold medal to our beautiful country, Canada. After winning back-to-back gold medals in 2000 Sydney, and 2004 Athens, we failed slightly to three peat gold medals performances in Beijing bringing back a Silver Medal. Since then, In the past 4 years, we went through a couple of upsets and lots of changes. These have been obstacles that have been enriching and helped our program and team to grow and become an even better team. It has been a very tough last couple of months involving lots of training, traveling, and competitions as the games have been getting closer and closer. We are 14 days away and my team and I just arrived in Holland for the final stages of our preparation. We start with a little pre-tournament here, playing the Netherlands, Turkey and Germany. These games will help us to get into the groove and get acclimatized to Europe before the big event. In about 5 days we will then get closer by traveling to Sheffield, England where we will spend a few days training in their fabulous new sport facility. The home of England’s new Olympic gold medalist sweetheart Jessica Ennis. We have been there earlier this year to train so we know what to expect. It has been a really good place for us to get ready. By that time, we will definitely be ready to join the rest of the world in the London’s Paralympic Athletes Village and start these games that we have been waiting for, for so long. I can already feel the excitement in the air and know that these games will be the best Paralympic Games ever made. I will keep blogging my experience of theses games throughout the games so please come back and read other posts on my website www.davideng.ca. Till then, get ready to be excited and amazed. Don’t be sad that the Olympics are over. You have seen nothing yet. The London Paralympics are coming.
Wow, finalement vous vous dites. Mon premier article de blog en français. Et oui, je sais, le reste de mes textes sont en anglais. La seule raison pour cela c’est qu’il y a plus d’anglophone dans le monde entier qui pratique mon sport donc j’essaie de rejoindre le plus de gens possible et je sais que la majorité de mes lecteurs français comprennent en majorité l’anglais. Donc après m’avoir fait demandé d’écrire en français par quelques-un d’entre vous je me suis demandé de quelle sujet je pourrais écrire. Et ce sujet est bien sur l’équipe avec laquelle j’ai commencé ma carrière et dont je fais encore partie, Les Gladiateurs de Laval. Quand j’ai commencé à compétitionner à l’âge de 12 ans avec l’initiation de mon oncle Gérald Brûlé, j’ai commencé aec cette équipe et en 23 ans de carrière de basketteur en fauteuil-roulant, je n’ai pas joué avec eux que 5 ans. 4 ans pendant que je poursuivais mes études à l’université du Texas à Arlington et 1 ans quand j’ai habité Paris. Je suis très fier de faire partie de cette équipe. Les Gladiateurs est rendu officiellement la dynasty du basketball en fauteuil-roulant québécois. L’équipe qui a connu le plus de succès au Québec dans ce sport. Le 25 mars 2012, nous avons gagné notre 5ième titre provinciaux de suite. Je suis très fier de mon équipe. Les Gladiateurs ont gagné avec une écrasante victoire sur le Bulldogs de Québec. À la suite de trois journées intenses de matchs, les vainqueurs ont été proclamés. Dans la catégorie AAA, les Gladiateurs de Laval ont remporté la finale pour une cinquième année consécutive, en battant les Bulldogs de Québec par une marque de 62-75. Je suis aussi fier de notre équipe AA qui ont terminé 2ième. La saison dernière ils avaient terminé avant dernier.
La semaine dernière, Les Gladiateurs de Laval ont représenté notre conférence du Québec aux finales Canadiennes de basketball en fauteuil roulant à l’île-du-prince-édouard et on terminé 2ième au pays. Je ne pouvais malheureusement pas être la car je devais représenté notre pays Le canada dans un tournois International que nous avons gagné. Mais juste pour dire que je suis vraiment fier de mon équipe et de la performance qu’ils ont donné.
Pour parler un peu des Glads, j’ai un petit vidéo vraiment interessant sur notre équipe et notre saison 2008-2009. Ce mini documentaire a été tourné par des étudiants de l’université de Concordia. Malheureusement il est en anglais.
Par contre, voici un documentaire de la saison 2009-2010 des Gladiateurs à la recherche de notre 3ième titre consécutif. Mon cousin Gabriel Brûlé nous a suivi l’année complète pour un travail d’université et a fait un très bon travail. Mon cousin a beaucoup de talent et je l’adore malgré nos différence. Voici son documentaire sur ma carrière et les Gladiateurs. En français cette fois-ci 🙂
Il est rendu tard, je dois me reposé mais je vais revenir et compléter ce blog sur les Glads. J’espère que vous avez aimé les vidéos. Si vous avez des suggestions de sujets que vous voulez que je parle ne vous gênez pas a m’écrire.
Encore une fois, Félicitation Les Gladiateurs de LAVAL!!!
One of the highlight of this past year was probably the most enriching experience that I had the chance to be a part of. I received a call asking me if I wanted to be part of a one week unforgettable experience accompanied by 6 Olympics athlete and one other Paralympian athlete that is organized by the Canadian Olympic Committee. The purpose of this event was to be part of a tour where 8 athletes would visit all 4 maritime provinces to give speeches, while inspiring and keeping the Olympic/Paralympic spirit alive after the 2010 Vancouver Games. I really did not want to miss this kind of opportunity so I accepted right away. This opportunity is now known as the Heroes Tour.
On April 10th 2011, I took my flight out of Montreal to head to Halifax. I was excited about this adventure but I was disappointed in the fact that I had caught a virus which made me sick a few days before catching my flight. I was nervous that the virus would affect me during the tour. As I got to the airport on the 10th, I was feeling a little better so I knew that I was near the end of combating this virus. I knew this trip was going to be very important. Especially in the sens that I was going in the mindset to positively motivate and inspire people. They needed me at 100%. So I consciously decided to prepare this tour like if it was a basketball game. I had to try to hide the fact that I was sick, that I was very low on energy. I had to change my attitude and force it. Anyways once I got to the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau airport, I had quite a surprise at the check-in counter. I met my childhood friend that I have not seen and lost contact with in almost over 20 years. Her name is Rachel Picard and she works for Air Canada now. We caught up a little before my takeoff. She was very friendly. It was very nice getting back in contact with her. We are now facebook friends 🙂 and should reconnect soon by going to coffee.
As I got to the gate waiting for my flight, I met the first Olympian. She was the only other french-canadian athlete on this tour besides me. I remember her approaching the gate and seemed very pre-occupied. She spent very much time on her cell-phone. As I looked at her more closely, I could tell that I have seen her before. When she ended her call, we introduced each other. This athlete was 4x olympic medalist in short-track skating Tania Vicent. She was very nice and had a great smile. I guess we talked a lot Tania and I during the Tour because we both spoke french.
Once we got on the plane, Tania and I were not sitting near each other. So I took the time to review my notes. A few days back, before going on the tour. I did a little research online on the 7 other athletes that I was going to spend the whole week with. I figure I might as well know them a little before spending time with and them and know what they had accomplished. They are Canadian Olympic Athletes Medalists. In the past with my Canadian basketball National team, we had the chance to have Montreal’s Alouettes head coach Mark Trestman spend some time with us. Before meeting us, he new info on all of us. He had made his research. We were quite impressed that he took the time to do that. So I stole his technique with the athletes of the tour to help in our relationships. I just wanted to be able to put a face to the names, know what they accomplished, where they are from, etc. Most of them were familiar faces anyways.
Once we got to Halifax, we headed to the hotel. I joined Tania after we dropped our luggage in our respective rooms and went for a little walk around town. It was a nice little place with a harbor. As we walked around, across the street we saw a bald headed-guy with aviators on walking around with Canadian Athlete Olympic apparel. Tania said to me “I think he is one of the athletes.” So I waved at him and asked. Tania was right. He was no other than Bronze medalist from Vancouver in the four-man Bobsleigh team Chris LeBihan. Chris is awesome. I learned that he is married and just got a kid. He talked about how he managed sports and the married life. He was walking around town looking for a tie for the last day banquet. So met up, and all three of us kept walking and shopping together. That same night, I went back to my hotel room about to go to bed. My roommate was not there yet. The third athlete that I had the honor to meet. He arrived in the middle of the night. So, after I was asleep, he came in and woke me up. The C.O.C paired me up with the only other paralympian of the tour. I definitely knew who this paralympian athlete was. It was Sledge Hockey Team Canada Captain double leg amputee Greg Westlake. Greg is one of the funniest, fun, quick witted, cocky (in the good sense) athlete I know. We talked a little about my main man and former team Canada teammate Bradley Bowden. Brad is Assistant captain now in sledge hockey and competes with Greg so I’ve heard lots about Greg. I was also honored by Greg when he told me that when he was younger, he tried wheelchair basketball and looked up a lot to me and my teammate Adam Lancia. Over the years, he has become a awesome athlete and a great captain. After the little talk Greg and I had, It was time to go back to sleep a little because in the early morning, the show would start.
In the morning of the first day of the tour, from 6am to 7am, there was an optional morning run and weight lifting session for those wanted to train. I had the intention of going but I felt like it would be better for me to keep my energy for the day ahead especially that I did not have much to begin with because of my virus. People that really know me knows that I would of never skip the chance of training unless I had something wrong. I’m a train freak.
At 7am we had a meeting with the whole crew. We went through the whole week planning and introduced each other. I was one of the first one there. I met the staff. Julie Mahoney, a former fencing Olympic athlete from Montreal that I had the chance to work with in previous events, was there to greet me. She works at the C.O.C now, and was in charge of this Heroes Tour. She was the athletes coordinator. I like Julie. She is really outgoing, focused and really hard-working. I had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Kim from the C.O.C. He was also one in charge of the tour and acted as the emcee on the tour. I really enjoyed meeting Dennis. He is in charge of marketing at the C.O.C and brings a young-hip/fresh dynamic to the C.O.C. A great acquisition for the C.O.C. He showed us all the new ideas of branding. It really looked awesome. There was also a beautiful young lady named Georgina Gray that approached me complimenting me on the Posters that I am on for the Paralympic national Ad campaign. She was our Advance team so we dint get to see her a lot all week long. She would go to the venues before us to make sure everything was set up at our arrival. Derek Covington was CSC Event Lead, great guy. Did not see him much but got to talk to him later in the week. Isabelle Hodge, our Communications lead. She is a fun person to hang out with. She taught us a lot about twitter. Kate Moorhouse was our Logistics, event support and Lisa Wallace our Event Lead. There was also Wayne Russell the Board Representation. Our Executive Representation was no other than Jean Dupré, he may look like a intimidating guy at first but he is awesome, fun, down to earth guy. In addition to the staff, there was the lovely and uplifting Helen Stoumpos as our videographer. She filmed the hole thing and made a awesome video of the week that you can find attached at the end of this post. And last but not least, our Piper Michael Campbell. That’s right, we had our own piper. He would lead the way everywhere we went introducing us. First off our bus, first one to the events and we were just behind him. It was awesome.
Now to the Athletes. As I said. We were 8. 6 Olympians and 2 Paralympians.
David Bissett (Lethbridge, Alta.) is a two-time Olympic Bobsleigh athlete in 2010 and 2006. At the Olympic winter games in Vancouver 2010, he won bronze in the four-man event, Canada’s first Olympic medal in that event since 1964. Along with a host of World Cup medals, Bissett won silver at the 2007 World championships in the four-man. David is a big, strong and quite the reserved guy. He is quiet but had lots of fun with him. He is genuine and although he does not talk much, he says some of the funniest comments.
Kaillie Humphries (Calgary) made history by winning gold in two-man bobsleigh at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, Canada’s first women’s Olympic champion in the sport. The Bobsleigh pilot recently won bronze at the 2011 World Championships. Kaillie has so much charisma. She is so much fun to hang out with. She has attitude. I like that. There is something about her that just…… I don’t really know honestly… There’s just something really cool about her. She has that special something. You guys should take a look at her legs…. she has those huge awesome quads. I think her legs were in a magazine about special body parts. Seriously, I’m not kidding.
Adam Kreek (London, Ont.) is a two-time Olympian and three-time world champion rower. Kreek helped lead the men’s eight to a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, as well as to gold at the 2002,2003 and 2007 World Championships. He has six World Cup gold medals. Adam, wow what a guy. I was actually inspired by him. He is very tall and seriously, he is one of the best speakers I have seen. He has a awesome personality, he is out-going, fun and really friendly guy. He helped me a lot giving me tips during the week for my speeches. I really encourage everyone to at least go to one of his public appearances. He is worth it. He is One with the mic. As for everyone else that is looking to hire a Motivational speaker, he’s your man. You can find him at http://www.kreekspeak.com/
Chris LeBihan (Kelowa, B.C) is also a member of the historic bronze medal fourman bobsleigh team at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Competing Nationally since 2004, he is a veteran of three World Championships as well. As I said earlier, he is a great guy worth knowing. Great all-around athlete.
Denny Morrison (Fort St.John, B.C) has captured two Olympic and seven World Championship medals in speed skating. In team pursuit, he led Canada to silver at Torino in 2006 before winning gold in Vancouver in 2010. Morrisson has won more than 30 World Cup medals, and is 2008 world champion in the 1500 meters. I did not know what to think about Denny at first. He seemed shy but quickly I saw I was mistaking. He is awesomely outgoing and someone that I could definitely see myself hangout with if we lived close by. We hanged out quite a bit Denny and I. Well we all did actually. He’s a great dart player. I’ll explain that one later despite what Chris thinks,lol
Tania Vicent (Laval,Que.) has captured a medal at the past four Olympic winter games. The short-track speed skater is a mainstay in the women’s relay, and in that event has won two silver medals (1010, 2006) and two bronze medals (2002,1998). A national athlete for nearly two decades, Vicent has competed at 12 World Championships, collecting seven medals. As I said before, Tania was my french speaking buddy. She has so much experience as a high level athlete that it was very interesting to have talks with her.
Greg Westlake (Oakville, ON) has been an offensive star for Canada’s National Sledge Hockey Team. At the age of 24 Westlake already has a Paralympic and a world Championship gold medal under his belt. He authored a great moment in Canadian sledge hockey history at the 2008 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship, scoring the game-winning goal with just eight seconds to go to defeat Norway in the gold medal match.
Heather Moyse (Summerside, P.E.I) teamed with Kaillie Humphries to win Olympic gold in two-man bobsleigh. Moyse narrowly missed a medal in her first Olympic competition, finishing fourth at Torino 2006. The bobsleigh brakeman recently won bronze at the 2011 World championships. Heather also represented Canada in 15 Internationnal rugby games as a member of the National Senior Women’s Rugby Team. And shes done lots lots more. Wow!!! What a women. everything I’ve said about Adam Kreek applies to Heather also. Never have I been so captivated by the presence, the positive energy, the out-going charismatic personality of a women like Heather Moyse has. Every time she appeared somewhere, you could see that the surroundings changed. Suddenly her contagious positive energy would affect everyone around her. It was crazy. The only other women I have seen have this affect on people is when I met Kate Middleton On Canada’s day. Anyways, It took me a while before talking to her honestly. I think I was sort of intimidated. Anyways, later in the week we actually started to hang out and she is a phenomenal person. You can check her out on her site at http://www.heathermoyse.net. She is actually training right now to be a cyclist.
So these were the seven other athletes beside me part taking into this adventure ride. The Unforgettable Heroes Tour. (Actually I made a mistake. We had the meeting the night before, we just had a review in the morning)
In the morning of the 11th, as the crew met up in the lobby after our little daily debrief and hotel check out, we had a little tasteful smoothie before we embarked onto our bus. The magic bus as we called it. As we were loading up, once I was in the bus, I noticed something was wrong. I felt like I was forgetting something. I realized that I lost my brand new Samsung Galaxy S smartphone from Bell and Athlete Can. I was p!#$#$!!! I felt bad cause I delayed the bus from leaving but Denny forgot his medals too so it gained me time to try to find my phone but no luck. The phone was gone. I was not worried about losing the phone. I knew I could get another one. I was worried about the memory card in it. I dint have a backup. All my numbers from my friends in Texas were in there and all my photos. That’s whats the most frustrating about losing the phone. What a mood breaker. I was already down on energy from the virus and then this….. It was not going too well for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept telling myself to forget about it and to live the moment. But it was too hard. All week I thought about it because I wanted to tweet everything that was going on. I wanted to take pictures, and I could not. I just saw everyone else doing it, but I just could not.
Anyways, our first stop was at the Armed forces, CFB Halifax. Our Piper came in the room blowing into his pipes where all the soldiers were ready to greet us. We were right behind him. It is an honor to see that these soldiers were there supporting us. I have seriously great admiration for everything that they do to protect us. It was awesome the welcome that they gave us. Each athlete was assigned a table with a couple of soldiers and we sat down. Heather Moyse was at the same table across from me with the soldiers. We talked and showed our medals to the soldiers. We shared our athletic stories and they shared their own stories. It was as inspiring for them than for us. The Stadacona Navy Band Quartet performed the National Anthem. We had breakfast with the soldiers. There was also a little stage organized for us by our advance team with a big poster behind us with all 8 of us on it. Our Emcee Dennis Kim gave a little intro about each one of us on the mic. Than Adam Kreek went to the podium and gave his speech. It was so funny. He even made a joke that killed the place of laughter. I can’t remember what it was but I remember everyone saying wow, I can’t believe he said that. He gave a great speech. That was when I knew that guy was a phenomenal speaker. After Westlake gave a great speech also. After that, all the athletes were asked to go on stage were we each received a medal from the Armed Forces. It was a great honor. It is always greatly appreciated when we know we compete hard competing for our country and then the country gives appreciation back for our efforts. It’s a great feeling. After breakfast we were invited to go on a little tour of a real army battleship. The HMCS Montreal. Wow, that was impressive.
The second stop of the day was the Cold F-X Podium Excellence Luncheon in conjunction with Canadian Sport Center Atlantic. We got to meet some young athletes that were heading to the Canada Games where they prepared a couple of questions for us. As we were having lunch, there was a stage with 2 couches. Heather Moyse started off with a little speech and then each athlete was paired up with a Canada games athlete to go up on stage to sit on these couches with the mics for about 10 minutes each and answer the questions. First pairing was Denny Morrisson with Aidan Cyr (NS Speedskater), second was Kallie Humphries with I don’t remember whom but you can see her on the video (sorry), third was Adam Kreek and Jeremy Page (Gold medal snowboard), I went fourth and I was paired up with an athlete that I knew already. It was Jamey Jewels. Jamey competes in Wheelchair basketball and was a rookie with the National women’s team. So she asked me a few questions and I answered them. It was fun. I like to think we did a good job. Fifth was Greg Westlake and Jared Goad (Gold medal gymnastics). We then finished this event with a autograph signing.
We then rushed to our third event because time was running late. The third event of the day was the most emotional event for sure. We went to Ronald McDonald House and IWK Health center family room. Wow what an event. We had to go spend some quality time with some terminally ill sick kids. That was tough. I always wanted to do something like that before. I always saw NBA players do things like that on TV and wanted someday to do it. As much as it is tough to see those kids, there is nothing like seeing them smile and know you were part of it. We had a great time. We showed them our medals, played games with the kids, some of us got their nails painted. The kids wore our medals, we just had fun and smiled and laugh. It was a really emotional charged event. It brought my basketball career to a whole new level. I was also surprise to see that the hospital had posters of me everywhere from the CPC Ad campaign. The visit to the hospital was by far the highlight of the day. We then left, went to the airport and flew to our next destination. St-John’s Newfoundland.
That night we arrived at St-Johns, Newfoundland. As we arrived we wanted to go out a bit. So we went out to a bar to get screeched in. Screeched in is a Newfoundland tradition where you take a shot of whiskey and you have to kiss a cod. So we did as a team all got screeched in and each kissed a Cod. We all got a certificate. We hang out at the bar, made some friends and par take into some friendly competition. Darts. We teamed up Denny Morrisson and I versus Greg Westlake and Chris LeBihan. We played around the world. Denny and I seriously could not hit anything in the beginning. We were getting a good old fashioned ass-whooping. Greg and Chris could not miss. Eventually they were so much ahead that Chris decided to leave without finishing the game. So Greg had to play his turns and play Chris’s turn cause Chris was gone. But Denny and I started to hit and we could not miss. We actually caught up and won fair and square. Even Greg admits it. LOL but Chris doesn’t want to hear about it. loll that whats happens when you put a bunch of athletes in a bar. We get competitive. So it was a nice night out, we, the athletes, got to get to know each other better. It was fun.
Day 2: St-John, Newfoundland
Wow, what a short night. We had another packed day on the schedule.
At 7:45 we had another meet and greet with some Canada Games athletes for about 15 minutes.
At 8am we left on a bus to head to Terry Fox Mile Zero. On the bus we watched a small documentary by Steve Nash on the life of Terry Fox. Absolutely amazing and very inspiring. The documentary is greatly done.
At 8:15 We visited Mile Zero. And I tell you, It was freezing cold and windy. It was nice to see. The stone where it is engraved Terry Fox Mile Zero was smaller than I expected but was still nice to see. We than walked back a hill with our Piper leading the way playing his music as always.
At 8:50 we departed for St-John’s City Hall for the Celebration of Heroes Event.There was about 150 students/community leaders aged 12-17 from schools, community centers, boys & girls Clubs, Big brothers and sisters attending this event. As always, we were introduced in the room by our piper and our Emcee gave each one of us our little intro. They showed a message video of Jay Triano, former Toronto Raptors head coach and the Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff gave a welcome and opening remarks from the city. Greg Westlake gave a inspiring speech and you could tell that as time on the tour was passing, he was getting more comfortable and better. We all were. He added a couple of funny stories about how he use to tell people how he lost his legs. After that, all 8 of us were sitting on stools infront of the crowd and our emcee Dennis asked us a couple of questions to get the ball rolling. Then it was time for questions from the crowd to the athletes. We followed by a autograph session. We closed the event with closing remarks by Dennis Kim and David Bissett and off we were on the road again to Janeway Children’s Health Center Visit.
At 11Am we got there and Chris LeBihan did the intro for our team of heroes. This was even bigger than the day before. There was even way more kids. But it was so much fun and touching. These are the best times of the tour I would say. smiles after smiles after smiles. My posters were there also, it was funny. Kaillie kept calling me superstar. Wemade lots of friends and took lots of pictures with the kids. We will always remember that day.
And before we know it, back to the magic bus and onto to Charlottetown, PEI.
Day 3: Heather Moyse Day
I really enjoyed being back in Charlottetown. I’ve been there in 1991 at my first Canadian wheelchair basketball league finals (CWBL). Great memories. I loved the fact of being back here for that reason. Great memories. Anyways, back to the Heroes tour. This was the first day of the tour we could sleep in a little. My virus was gone and I was feeling way better. I had my energy back. We started the day at 10am with another great hospital visit. the QE General Hospital. Great way to start our day. At 11:30 we went to Charlottestown City Hall. We were there to get a warm welcome by the mayor and sign the book. We got to meet David MacEachern, a former bobsleigh Olympic medalist that was getting inducted into the hall of fame at the end of the week. We met Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, had a photo op and Heather Moyse gave a nice little speech.
Now at 2pm we went to Summerside Intermidiate. It was held at Heather Moyse alma mater school. It was crazy the whole school was there to greet us but especially their hometown hero Heather Moyse. We went on stage after our intro and we noticed that the kids made big banners of each one of us that were hanging down the walls. Our Emcee Dennis Kim was making crowd pump-up/chants to warm up the crowd upon our arrival. At our intro, we each got on stage with each a different little style. Chris did a Cartwheel, and David Bissett did a belly slide dive on stage. The energy in there was amazing. We thought it could not get louder than that until Heather Moyse made her entrance. It was insane. The noise just amplified 10x. It was loud. So sitting on stage like a panel, Heather introduced us with more details again. There was a band that played the national anthem and a tribute to hometown queen Heather Moyse by one of her past teachers. Than Heather led with a Q&A with us. The students thank us with a banner, and off we went. This event was magical. Heather was amazing that event. It was very emotional for her that she even had tears at one point if I remember it right.
From there, we left on the magic bus and headed to our final destination where the biggest event was yet to come.
At 5:30Pm we arrived at the Hotel Casino New Brunswick to check in the hotel. Everyone had off that night except for Adam Kreek, Tania Vicent, Heather Moyse and myself. He had to go to the Coliseum for a walk through of the next day big show. Once I got to the Coliseum I dint know what I was up to. It was huge. There was going to be 4000 students in the super show and I had to give a speech in french. I was up for the challenge though. I had the help of Adam Kreek for my speech. He was awesome. For his speech, he decided to do the song ROW ROW ROW your boat, but with french words. It was amazing. Anyways. Had to get some rest for the next day and get my speech ready.
Day 4: FINISHING THE HEROES TOUR ON A BIG BOOM
We left the hotel at 8:15 to arrive at the Moncton Coliseum. As we arrived there it was insane. The whole Coliseum was packed with kids screaming and chanting. 4000 kids of grade 6,7,8 students. It was so high pitched that it was actually hurting our ears. We were backstage waiting for the show to start. Once the show started and they introduced us on stage the place went nuts. You could feel everything thing shaking and trembling. We were on stage after our intro and answered a couple of crowd questions, and we had our moments where we had to speak. The Arkells were there doing the first part of the concert. After the first part, Adam Kreek went on, and did his little song with his speech and the, it was my turn. I went up there and it was amazing. I spoke and lost time..lol I went over my time limit but I did not mind. I was enjoying myself up there with the crowd. Speaking infront of 4000 kids was a incredible feeling. After that the Arkells went back on to do their second part of the show and all 8 of us athletes decided to join onstage with the band and started dancing and singing. It was a unforgettable event. It was an incredible feeling and I was happy to have shared this event with these other 7 athletes.
At 3pm we went the the University of Moncton where we did a Performance Excellence clinic -CSC. This event was to make students a couple of training sessions exercises in little groups. We each had groups of 7-10 students and made them do exercises. I was in charge of Muscle mobility/activation. After the infield session, we headed to a classroom and went through a question session. It was a great time. More of a private up and close personal session it felt like. We ended up with a autograph session. While the autograph session was taking place, I received a couple of comments of how they liked what I said at the coliseum. I was glad to hear that I inspired people that day. And this ended the Heroes Tour.
Well, the Heroes tour led to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame that was held at the same hotel. I will talk about that week-end also but it will be for another post. The Heroes Tour is probably in the top 5 events that I have done in my life. I had the chance to meet 7 extraordinary athletes which whom we will be connected together for ever by this event. They have made me a better person and taught me a lot. It showed me that Olympic athletes and Paralympic athletes are no different. I will cherish these memories and relationships forever. It has been a enriching and powerful event. It has change my life and brought new meaning and purpose to my career. The only disappointment that I have was that I was sick and it took me a while to build relationships with the others and show them a little bit more the true me. I lost time with them but hopefully I will see them again one day. Maybe at the Heroes Tour 2 🙂 I will leave you with this awesome video. A recap of the Heroes Tour by our videographer, Helen Stoumpos.
As I am finishing this post, I have flashes of way more little mini stories that happened that I forgot to write. For example, the bracelet stories, the radio interview I did with Kaillie and how I saved her from herself a couple times :). If my fellow heroes happen to read this post and want to add things, please do in the comment section.
Wow, It’s been over a year now that I have posted something here but I assure you I’m back and I will be taking all of you on my journey. The Road to London 2012. Yes it is official, The Canadian wheelchair basketball Team has
qualified for the 2012 London Paralympics. We just came back from the Qualifiers at Parapanam Games that were held in Guadalajara, Mexico. We came back with the Bronze medal. We barely made it. Only the top 3 teams of these games qualified for the paralympics. The results were deceiving, but they were a real character builder. Besides the results, I must of had one of the best times in a very long time. Lots of memories will be engraved in me of theses games such as one of my best buddies on the team Dave Durepos having the honor of being flag bearer at the opening ceremonies, wrestling masks and fights, lots of pics of fans, the games, hanging out with the athletes at the athletes lounge, and much much more. I will be covering these topics soon enough.
By popular demand, I have decided also to take you on the journey with me from now till London. Lots of people have been requesting how I am planning to prepare for this journey so I will be taking you with me. I will post more often, topics like my training, my competitions results, nutrition, and more… I was surprise to know that other people than my teammates were actually reading my posts. One time at a local tournament in Quebec city, the mother a young kid told me that her son loved reading my posts and hopes that I will continue. Knowing that others are interested is definitely motivating for me to continue my blog especially this year. In the past year that I have not wrote anything,there was lots of changes in my life and lots of events that is worth sharing with you. There was the Heroes Tour, the Players camp that I hosted, last year France & Belgium Tournament where we met Keanu Reeves clone, The return of the legendary Patrick Anderson one of my best friends. These stories I will share also. As for my personal life, I decided to lose 30 lbs to be faster, lighter, quicker for my sport. Other big changes also such as the end of my 4 year relationship almost already 3 months ago.
Lots of changes happened but I am back, with a whole new attitude, refreshed strength, and a unbreakable focus as we, my readers and I, embark into this ROAD TO LONDON.
Even Team Canada has a new vision….. EVERYDAY IN EVERY WAY!
My first stop for now is to make Team Canada. Selection Camp is in January. 5 weeks from now in Vegas. That will be our first step.
Thank you all for your patience. But trust me, from now on, If you thought my accomplishments were great, You have seen nothing else…….
Let IT BEGIN!!!!!!
So as I was saying, the Nightmare was just beginning. Not only that we got upset by Italy, and that we were out the medal contention, there was another huge upset that day. Great-Britain lost to France. This was another upset in the world of wheelchair basketball. This meant that we would have to beat one of the best teams in the world to be able to fight for 5th or 6 th place otherwise we would have to fight for a embarassing 7th or 8th place. Talks amungst players started about losing all our funding if we dint finish 5th. Stress levels were at its peak. Late that day we had a practice. The practice was at a very low intensity. We had lots of shooting drills and a couple of team concepts. You could tell that the moral of the team was at its lowest that I have ever seen. I was ready to go all out, to push as hard as I could while we were practicing press breaks. I really dint want to lose the next day. I had the mentality that we just lost a big game, that we were out of the medal round, it was time to go even harder too make sure that we at least finish 5th. That we had to beat Great-Britain, a team that we haven’t beat in the past year but we got closer every time we played them and that we were ready right now. That if there was a time to beat them, it was NOW! Having that mentality, I wanted to go hard, practice hard and play hard. I could feel that other players had the same feeling as I did. I felt the same killer instinct in other players while we were practicing such as Dirt, Bo Hedges, Chad Jassman, Brandon Wagner and others. But at the same time, I saw a different side in others. A side of emotional defeat, of not wanting to be there at that practice. Some players were not pushing hard, or some, not even pushing at all. I got frustrated because I felt like If your not giving your 100%, how is that helping the team and I get better? And I felt like the team, at this time, more than ever, had to regroup, and get better once again, ALL OF US!! I dint know what to do. I was at the same time frustrated but dint want to say anything either cause I knew the moral of the ne player noticed that I was different and that I was really taking it to heart. That player was Ross MAcDonald. After practice he talked to me. He explained it to me in another view, how people were hurt by our loss and different people react differently in situations. I really appreciate him talking to me and comforting me. He made me realize one thing, whether people reacted like me with a burning desire to kill the next day, or the other version, the team needed to regroup and starting having fun again. I made my next game day objective exactly that.
DAY 17: IF YOUR IN A NIGHTMARE, MIGHT AS WELL MAKE IT FUN!!
I’m going to try to make this part short. On this day, my focus was was to bring smiles back and positive energy. The great thing about it, is that Head Coach Jerry Tonello, in the pre-game meeting, asked the players the same. I guess we had both the same realization.
We played Great-Britain that day. A team that was emotionnaly in the same boat as we were, out of the medal rounds. Canada vs Great Britain could of easily been the matchup in the finals, but instead, both were facing nightmarish circumstances. I started this game on the bench which gave me a great opportunity to sparkup the players. Before the last 3 minutes of the warm-up, as a team we usually meet under our basket and talk about stuff. SOmetimes we use this time to motivate, othertimes to review tactics and others, well, al of the above. We usually start with the captain. I simply told the players this time that GB was in the same boat as us. They were emotionnaly drained by negativity. They were flat of energy, just like us but I told them, that we should take advantage of this, and be the first team to snap out of it and that way, we could win this game. This was basicly my speech. After that, we took a couple more warm-up shots as a team, then the starters staye on the loor and the rest of the team on the bench. I was determined to spark up this bench and bring Fun and energy back so I had a Idea. All week, our rookie Tyler Miler talked about wanting to do the old Chicago Bulls huddle speech so I gave him his opportunity. The bench players circled up together and Tyler yelled “WHAT TIME IS IT?” While the rest of us replied loudly “GAME TIME, HOU!!!!” Everyone loved it and it set the pace for the game. The Bench was back, it was Alive!!! We had a blast. Ross was chanting, Bo was yelling his guts out and even silent Mikael Poulin was chanting. I was chanting so loud also that at one point I had to slow down cause I thought I was hyperventilating. The good news though it was that even though the start of the game was not a great start, well the starters fed from the energy and got a big lead to start the fourth quarter. Everyone was having fun, was smiling, and it looked like the Canada team that we once new was back. Well, it was at least fun for 3 quarters. GB went on a huge run in the fourth, and before we knew it, the moral was back down a little but not as much as it was but just enough so that the players went on a shooting rut. GB won the game.
The moral of the team was once again down, but Bo Hedges said something in the tam meeting after the game that made sens to me. He said: ” Even though we lost the game, we did have 3 strong quarters and those 3 quarters felt good again while we were winning. At that moment, we were all playing well. We must remember that time. We must remember how it feels to win.” What Bo said was exactly right. I’ll End day 17 on this.
Day 18: WHAT CAN I SAY, BETTER 7 THAN 8
Ok well not much to say here, we played Turkey for the 7th place. We did win but we had a rough time. We were actually strugling. we were down almost 20 at one point in the game. This is just to prove that competing while emotionaly down, its hard. Yu start second guessing your shot which makes you miss it, you want to play safe, so you make a safe pass, you hesitate and the defender reads you like a bok and before you know it, Turnover. The good thing was that we did a comeback and won and this puts an end to the games of our tournament. Relieved at last. The team is embarassed to finish 7, but is relieve of this nightmarish experience. Now, All that is left to do is ….party!! The only positive good thing about this 7th place is that it puts us in a position where we can party a little which hasent hapen in years because we always have to stay sharp because we usualy have to get ready for finals. And this is probably going to be the last time like this because never again, we will finish 7 as long as I am on this team, I can promise you that. 2012 here we come. On my next post, I will talk about the party that took place, a couple more stories that I forgot to mention and a huge outrage injustice that happen that I am very frustrated about. Stay Tune
I Know that the World championships are over and I have been back in Canada for 3 days already. The truth is that I have not written since day 14. The day that everything that seemed so good went so bad. The reason I have not written is because I tried to refocus while hard circumstances were happening. Now that it is over. I owe everyone the rest of the journey. As I am writing this, waiting at Toronto Island after a whole day at a press conference for the Canadian Paralympic Committe (CPC) and Own The Podium (OTP) because my flight is delayed by 2 hrs, I decided to just do that. Write the rest of the World Championships Story. As I remember, I left of on day 14. The Day that the Koalas and Kangaroos defeated the Beavers by breaking down their damn which let the water pour out into havoc. Thats right, On that day, we played our nemesis Australia. That game was the last game of the first round. The game was to decide who was going to finish first in our pool. The Aussies or the Canucks. Earlier that day, in the other conference, the home team Great Britain faced another of our rivals, our brothers the UNITED STATES for the same outcome than our game. It was for who would finish first on their side. And Great Britain won that number one spot and the US would finish second in their conference. This finish would determine the final placements on their side. Later that day, it was up to us now to determine the same.
The Australia game was touch like always. They play a very aggressive type of play. A few weeks ago in the BT Paralympic Cup, we were able to defeat Australia with a certain game plan. This time, for a reason that I still don’t understand, we did not use the same game plan and Australia defeated us. They stepped all over us. They bullied us to the ground. In the pre-game, we kept talking about keeping our composure against Australia because we know how aggressive they play, and sometimes, even outside the rule book. We emphasis composure so we dont get distracted and loose our cool. The problem with that, as I have seen it before on this team, is that most players on this team don”t really understand what composure means. Most of our guys let themselves get bullied on by lowering their intensity and arousal level to the point where they think they are not letting Australia get into their heads but at the same time their focus is not the same. Their not Playing ball anymore. Keeping composure means keep playing harder, stronger, more intense without loosing control mentally. WE have as a team look into the bullies eyes and push back. Thats how anyone can defeat a bully. Anyways, we lost that game which put us on the 2nd place of our pool. The lost was hard on the spirit of the team but that lost could of been to our advantage we thought. The reason was because if everything kept going as plan, we should meet Great-Britain in the semis instead of the US. And we prefer that scenario because we struggle more against the US than GB. The problem with that thinking is that people overlooked the quarter-finals.
DAY 15: OFF DAY
On this day, we had a off day. We did however had an optional practice.
On this day, I was still disapointed on our lost but refocused for the next day. We were going to play Italy in the Quarter Finals.
This day was pretty relaxed, we went to the mall again, watch team video on our lost against Australia and went to bed.
Day 16: Happy Birthday Dirt well……
The morning of the sixteenth day I woke up and went to breakfast and noticed that our hotel room door was filled with balloons and ribbons wishing my roommate Dirt a happy Birthday. The decorations was installed by my long lasting friend Sab who happens to be Dirt’s Wife ( I’m a great matchmaker) and his daughter Chelsea. We had breakfast and we had a early team video session with game plan versus Italy. The day was going great so far until something weird happen. When we started our game, I knew something was wrong. Everyone was out of sync in the warm up. Players were goofing around, not focused and not communicating. I tried to bring the intensity up by talking more and asking people to focus and start talking more and some players sarcasticly did it which got me very mad. I had a gut feeling that something bad was going to happen and that gut feeling happened to be right. As the game started, we were suppose to run a 2-play right from the start but things all scrambled up as players werent focused. We had a aweful start which would summarize the rest of the game and resulted into a embarassing lost to Italy. A team that we destroyed the week before and this time would eliminate us from the medal rounds. Canada, the most dominating team for the last decade was out. At this moment, we were officially, FORMER WORLD CHAMPIONS. The nightmare began and was far from over.
Right now I have to board the plane, but I will be back soon to continue this nightmarish world championships.
I know I havent been writing as much as the beginning of this journey besides little game recaps. The main reason is that I am mostly focused on the games and trying to rest as much as possible. We’ve been staying in our rooms mostly in dead time just laying there and for myself, visualizing. Today we are playing another team that we know very little about. Turkey. Watching the team video that our coaches prepared for us, we felt confident that we were going to be able to win this game.
In the warm-up of the game, I felt something strange with my shot. I was powerless. The ball felt heavy, and the basket felt higher when I shot in warm up. I had to force the shot just to make a free throw. I tried not to let it affect my mental part of my game so I blocked it out of my head. When the game started, I hit the first shot. It was a 45 degree post shot outside the right side of the key. My shot felt fine then so I thought I was ok now until, my team called a play for me where I had to shoot a 3 and hit nothing but AIR. Thats right, I shot a an Air ball so bad, that I thought it was going to fall short right in the middle of the key. I felt it right on the release. A couple of possessions later I shot another Air ball but his time it was a 15 footer. Yep, something was definetly wrong with my shot. There was no power at all in my arms. I know why though that happenned. Since we’ve been in Birmingham, I changed a little my pre-game routine. I’ve added way more stretching. A mixture of static and dynamic stretching. I over did it this time doing way more static stretching. That is why before a game or workout, we usually do dynamic stretching and keep the static stretching at the end. Research shows that long static stretching unhooks the part of the muscle fibers that is responsible for muscle contraction which in return, diminishes muscle contraction speed. In other words, it diminishes power output.
Anyways, the Algerian gave us a challenge in the first half. The scouting reports on Algeria showed us that 80% of they’re points come from they’re #5 player. He can shoot from anywhere. We even shot shoots like 5 feet behind the 3 point line and hitting that shot on a very high percentage. The kind of shot I love taking. We had the chance to witness one of those long 3 pointers of his when he successfully, effotlessly, made one at the buzzer of the end of the first quarter. We had a team objective to keep him at 18 points in the game. He had 38 points against Mexico and we chose 18 because that is what he scored on Australia. That objective was going to be hard to achieve because after the first quarter, he already had 15 points.
At the half with the Algerians, the score was tied 31-31. But we did not panick even though the score was tied because we knew we were in a worst position yesterday and prevailed. And we were going to do the same on this day but this time, it was another line-up that was going to do it for us. Dirt came right at the first possession of the 2nd half and made a 3 giving us the lead and the tempo to win this game. That shot gave us momentum and confidence to our team to keep moving, while Turkey just dissapeared slowly. Adam Lancia added a game high 21 points. The lineup that started the 2nd half played so hard on Offense and Defense, that not only that we won the game, they kept our objective to keep #5 to 18 points a success cause they shut him down and he never came back in the game. He finished with 17 points. Even I, when I saw the floor again, I seemed to have regained some power and made some shots.
Thats the beauty of our team, we are not a one player team. On any day, anybody can step up on our team. I love this team.
We won 69-60.
Tomorrow it will be a tough game as we will face our nemesis, the Australians.
On this day, We faced the French. In the morning we had a video session. Clips that showed they’re strenght and tendencies. France has ont of the fastest players in the world. A friend of mine named Sofyan. He is a class 3. The coaches named him as the number 1 threat for France. I was excited to play France since I played 1 season there before. I did make some great friends there but my experience as a basketball player, I din’t like at all. Mostly because of the way my team in Paris ran things and they’re ways of viewing the game. Anyways, enough of the past and let’S come back to the NOW.
France has a very fast team and have some decent height. It was not going to be easy. And tough the game was because we were losing by 4 at half time. We struggled with the full court press they put on us and it seemed that they were hitting every shot they took. We knew that was going to happen even though they lost by 3 to Mexico the day before. Teams tend to do that to us. They tend to come on hitting everything when they shoot the ball against us. I kept telling my teammates at half time, just keep doing the little things and thats how we were going to win this. So we did. We were able to go on a run on France and never looked back. That lead was created by textbook basketball team work which gave us lots of transition lay-ups. Richard Peter, The Man called BEAR, had a awesome game shooting 8 for 10 with 7 assists. We were really happy with his win. A Win that we can use for the futur that shows and remind us, that if we keep playing the game fundamentals, we can overcome any challenges and make it easier on us. Team Ball won this game.
You can find my french interview on this link:
and Joey Johnson’s interview on:
we won this game 67-55.
Later that night, we went to the movies again with a few of the guys. BO, Dirt, Ross, Joey, Tyler and myself. We went to see Predators. I was pretty dissapointed. The casting was horrible. It was a good team bonding outing.
Wow, I apologize to all readers. I havent updated my blog in a few days now. I’ll make it up to you. Well on day 11, we faced Algeria.
A team that we did not have a chance to play in the past so we did not really know them. The coaches staff did get a chance to get a hold on some video tapes of previous games that they’ve played so we could come up a game plan. We finished with the score of 87-61. We won this game. I’m really proud of how our team is playing. I finished top scorer of the team but it was basicly because of all the effort of our lower classes such as Abdi, Chad and Tyler, working really hard helping me getting as close to the basket possible. So my points are basily all 2 feet from the basket. There should be a stat in wheelchair basketball for sealing so the lower classes can get more recognition.
This game is a real confidence booster for us because on day 12, We face France. A team that is filled with talent that has overall fast speed and height. I know most of the players on that team because of the year Iplayed in their league in 2006.
Here is a link to the post-game interview that my Teammate Bo Hedges made after this game.