Canadian flags and red toques filled the gymnasium as the students at Palsson Elementary School celebrated the opening day of the 2014 Sochi Olympics Friday morning.
Principal Jann Drake opened the assembly with these words: “The Olympic Games demonstrate fair play, pursuit of excellence, leadership, respect, healthy active living and perseverance.”
She then introduced former two-time Paralympian, Lake Cowichan resident Gordon Tuck and Councillor Tim McGonigle, a Paralympic torch runner in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Both then marched into the gym Olympic-style, led by torch bearer McGonigle.
In 1998, Tuck competed in the Nagano games in Japan and in the 2002 event in Salt Lake City. His sport was Alpine skiing. Tuck finished 15th in Nagano and 7th at Salt Lake City in the men’s giant slalom on his prosthetic leg.
“After I lost my leg I thought life was over, but it’s not. It was just starting; I was only 18 years old,” Tuck told the kids.
He spoke about the workplace accident that took his left leg in 1991 and how with a never-give-up attitude he managed to teach himself to ski again, a sport he enjoyed before his accident.
With hard work he eventually became good enough to be invited to two Paralympics Games.
A gasp could be heard from the children as they all sat up to see Tuck pull up his pant leg up to show them his computerized prosthetic leg. He showed photos of himself skiing downhill at 100kph on one ski and spoke about how much fun it was to be in the Olympics.
McGonigle, Olympic Torch in hand, spoke to the kids about how exciting it was to run in Vancouver with the torch and how coaching young men and women playing electric wheelchair hockey taught him to look at life differently.
The kids were excited to hold the Olympic Torch themselves.