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Paralympic Experience in Tokyo

You may remember Jody from an earlier article in which we highlighted her book From Anguish to Hope. Jody is an accomplished equestrian and represented Canada at the 2021 paralympic games this summer. Here is her report on the experience….

I can now say I have traveled completely around the world.... This Paralympic experience was truly unique. Unfortunately, I did not get to see much of Tokyo. We were only able to stay in the hotel and go to the Equestrian venue.

The trip *almost* didn’t happen. Lieutenant Lobin suffered a hairline fracture 2 months before his scheduled departure and was placed on stall rest for 6 weeks. Luckily he healed quickly and we were given the “all clear” in time to compete!

Prior to the Paralympics, Team Canada participated in a two week training camp in Aachen, Germany. We flew into Frankfurt and flew out of Dusseldorf. Most other ParaEquestrian Teams also held their training camps in Germany prior to the Paralympics.

My horse Lieutenant Lobin had an even bigger journey. He traveled to Wellington, FL by trailer and was there for 2 weeks. He then traveled to Miami for 2 days before boarding the plane to Germany with other Paralympic horses.

In Germany, we were able to go to the grocery store and had one team dinner at a restaurant. Social distancing was in full effect, the tables were so spread out it felt like we had the place to ourselves! Our time in Germany was quite laid back & relaxed.

Once we arrived in Tokyo, the stress began. The athletes were all stressed by the looming competition and the added protocols due to Covid-19. We were kept in strict bubbles with our team and were not able to socialize with other athletes. One of the highlights of my London 2012 Paralympic experience was having the opportunity to socialize and meet so many other athletes from all over the world.

In the Athletes Village, we were very limited with what we could do and see. This was due to the Covid restrictions in place. We were not allowed to visit people from other teams and countries. We were not even able to go to the gym in the athlete’s village. Other countries were able to visit the gym but the restrictions on Team Canada were strict. We were only able to use the gym in the Team Canada building but it was very small and not adaptive. In hindsight all of these restrictions helped to keep us safe, but at the time we felt very closed in.

The Para-Equestrian team was not able to participate in the Opening Ceremonies. Instead, we had a team party at the Equestrian Venue. The rest of Team Canada had a party at the athlete’s village in the Canada Building. No Canadian athletes attended the opening ceremonies.

Team Canada was comprised of fairly new athletes and we did not know each other well. Only Lauren and myself had previous Paralympic experience. Our team was also very spread out - members are from across Canada from Toronto and Vancouver, plus Ocala, FL and England.

The Equestrian venue at the Paralympics was incredible. It was so well thought out and was impeccably clean! The horses were treated like royalty.

The highlight of the trip was absolutely my ride. Lobin was a star and did exactly what he trained so hard for. The difficulty for me was my eyes and vision. I participated in eye therapy to help correct some difficulties I have but wish I had continued longer to see how that would have improved my performance.

I listened to the Canadian Team’s Paralympic theme song, “Shine” before my competition and was incredibly inspired by the song and its message. It is now my “go to” song for any event that is stressful.

Each athlete had to leave Tokyo within 24 hours of their last event. As a result, I watched the closing ceremonies from my condo in Toronto.

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