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Paralympian Van Nest hopes to inspire Canadian kids

Paralympian Van Nest hopes to inspire Canadian kids

Posted by PanamericanWorld on August 11, 2015

The nerves from competing in front of several hundred pro-Canadian fans got the best of Karen Van Nest on Monday.

But the fact there was several hundred fans, including a crowded row of children that sat in wheelchairs at field level of Varsity Stadium, wasn't lost on the 52-year-old from Wiarton, Ont.

Van Nest won silver in archery, and blamed jitters for partially costing her gold.

But to the Canadian, who was slow to join sports after a motorcycle accident in 1985 left her an amputee, said the exposure Paralympic sport is getting in Toronto is a victory in itself.

"I'm hoping any televised para-sport encourages anyone in a chair, or anyone, whatever their disability, to get out and try sport," Van Nest said. "Because it's the healthiest thing really, for your mind, for your body. It enhances your life. And you learn so many skills."

A victory Monday meant a berth in next summer's Rio Olympics. Jane Karla Gogel of Brazil won gold, outscoring Van Nest 140-132.

Van Nest will have a couple more opportunities to secure a berth in Rio, which would be Paralympic appearance No. 5 for the multitalented Canadian, who competed in three Paralympics in pistol shooting, won a world championship silver medal in rowing, and made her first Paralympic appearance in archery in 2012 in London.

Stuck prior to finding sports

She wasn't always so active.

It was almost a decade after her accident that Van Nest summoned the wherewithal to get active, sparked when her sister encouraged her to get up and dance at a wedding.

"I loved dancing. And that's when I went, 'OK, if I can dance, I can certainly do other things,"' she said.

"I had been stuck. I got stuck for about eight or nine years of not doing, not participating because I was uncomfortable. I wasn't really encouraged to be active and I didn't want to try, because I was afraid I'd fail. So I didn't do anything, which is a shame," Van Nest said. "There was depression, anger, an adjustment of feeling sorry for myself, a combination of all those things in the grieving process."

She was friends with an avid hunter and joined a shooting club in Brampton, Ont., making Canada's Paralympic team in 1998. She was fourth at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, missing a medal by seven-tenths of a point. She finished fifth four years later in Athens, and then, hampered by a shoulder injury that would force her to give up pistol, finished 10th in Beijing.

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