Natalie Wilkie (centre) was surrounded by friends and family on March 3 who gathered to send her off to the Paralympics on a high note. A viewing party for one of Natalie’s races will be held Friday, March 16 at 7:15 p.m. at the SASCU Rec Centre.(Image credit: Karin Huster)

Column: Go for it, Natalie

Sports is often about overcoming adversity.

Top athletes get that way through hard work, dedication, training and that ever-present teacher, failure. It’s part of what captures our attention to games – the knowledge that natural talent, combined with commitment, is what sets high level athletes apart and what gets them on podiums.

Sure, being an Olympic athlete is an unbelievably amazing accomplishment.

But it is interesting to hear from my oldest daughter who is far more engaged in watching this year’s Paralympic Games than the able-bodied variety.

“Because they could have given up,” said my 12-year-old daughter when I asked her why she would rather watch the Paralympics than the Olympics. “They could have just sat in their wheelchairs or just not done things. But they didn’t.”

It’s a powerful choice when faced with a situation such as the one 16-year-old Natalie Wilkie of Salmon Arm faced.

I remember the emergency call and the helicopter arriving at the Jackson school field to whisk her away to surgery. I remember wondering who the victim was and what the outcome might be.

As many of those who live here now know, Wilkie made a decision early on in her recovery not to let the loss of much of her hand stop her from doing the things she loved — the things that brought joy to her life. Soon, she was volunteering at an art camp, playing piano (one-handed and mostly in duets with her sister) and, of course, skiing.

Larch Hills Ski Club members fashioned a special gadget so she could hold two poles, and she also began to train in the Paralympic style, using only one pole.

I have had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Natalie on a few occasions, and was so impressed by her matter-of-fact demeanor and her forthrightness. She’s a bright, determined young woman.

And now she is the youngest Paralympic athlete on the Canadian team. Sending Natalie this community’s love and encouragement is something that means a lot to her and is certainly an accomplishment well worth celebrating.

So the public is invited to a viewing party to watch Natalie ski in the 7.5 km Classic Women’s Standing cross-country ski race. It will be streamed live this Friday, March 16 at the SASCU Recreation Centre auditorium. Doors open at 7:15 p.m., with the race scheduled for 7:45 p.m.

Red and white clothing, and “Go Natalie Go” signs are encouraged, with donations to the food bank happily accepted.

Residents can continue to send good wishes to Natalie here: bestwishesnatalie@gmail.com.

To volunteer to help, or for more information about this event, contact event organizer Jennifer Henrie by email at mjhenrie@gmail.com.

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