Paralympic Athlete, Karolina Wisniewska
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Paralympic Athlete, Karolina Wisniewska

November 19, 2019


– We love celebrating amazing individuals doing extraordinary
things. And para-athletes and paralympians are
no different. Whether it’s on the ice, whether it’s on the track, or it’s in the pool, we just love celebrating their success. – But for many of those athletes, their stories
of achievement extend way beyond their careers
in competition. And set them up for success in life. – And that’s no
different for the subject of
our next story, Karolina Wisniewska, a three time paralympian and eight-time medalist across the Nagano games, Salt Lake City, and finally Vancouver in 2010. – Whoa, eight medals? That is a lot of hardware. – Absolutely,
and she can add another notch to her belt. Karolina was
recently inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in Ottawa alongside the Class of 2017. (audience applauding) – [Host] Please
welcome to the stage, Karolina
Wisniewska. (audience cheering) – Thank you so much, I’m so honored to be here. I’m really moved. – [Dave] I catch up with Karolina to talk about
the significance of her induction into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame. – This nomination has caused me to reflect upon not only my skiing career but also my whole life and you know, what did I do then? What am I doing now? – [Dave] And where she is now is impressive. Karolina works at the National Art
Gallery of Canada as a senior
exhibition manager. She says her
time in sports has played a huge part in her success. – [Karolina]
If I were ever in a position
to hire anyone and I had to hire a regular person versus a high-performance athlete, I’d hire the
high-performance athlete every single time. Even if maybe they don’t know all the details because those
are the people you know are dedicated, are hard working, will see something through, can work through the pain. – [Dave] Fellow hall of fame inductee and Karolina’s
former coach, Ozzie Sawicki, agrees. – [Ozzie] That’s a big reason I got into coaching is I think you
realize that you’re making good people. You’re not just
making athletes. – [Dave] Ozzie
coached Karolina during the 2002 Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City. He describes her
as an athlete. – Stubborn, fastidious, works really hard, has high expectations of herself. And I think that reflected on our whole team. – [Dave] Another
fellow inductee in the builder category, has known Karolina for her entire Paralympic career. – Please welcome to the stage, the
Minister of Sport, and person with
a disability, the honourable
Carla Qualtrough. (audience cheering) – I first met her in Nagano in 1998, when I was on
mission staff and she was quite young. And I can tell you there’s no more fierce
a competitor and also no more better a person than Karolina. She’s a wonderful, wonderful role model. – [Dave] Karolina continues to tell me about her introduction to athletics. When she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy during her early
childhood. – [Karolina] I
started skiing as a form of physiotherapy but also because my whole family, my parents, my father was into skiing and when I was five and a physiotherapist said alpine skiing would be good for me, he was stoked. He was like great, I get to throw my kid on skis. It’s fun! – [Dave] For
Karolina, that fun developed
into a passion. With hard work,
she earned a place on the
national ski team, as an eight
time paralympic medalist in alpine skiing, Karolina had a splendid career on the hill. – [Karolina] My two bronze medals in 2010 are a highlight for me for so many reasons, because…it was a really tough comeback. Really tough, like coming back from concussion. Coming back
from just being a regular student person who’s not fit anymore. Being older and
then quite a bit older than
my competition. – [Dave] But
there would be a second
concussion in 2011 that would end her career. – [Karolina] I was in a downhill race in B.C. and had another massive crash, another concussion and I kind of feel as though maybe on some level I knew that it meant that I had to retire, but I didn’t want to think about it and also I really wasn’t capable. My brain was injured. – [Dave] Karen O’Neill is the CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. She admires how Karolina stayed connected to the Paralympic movement since retiring. – As much as
Karolina retired from an athletic career, she turned her attention to her leadership in other areas
of the movement. I can’t think of a better choice for the
athlete category to recognize Karolina this evening. – [Dave] Minister Qualtrough agrees. – [Carla] Karolina has a wonderful story of overcoming adversity. She’s come back
a number of times from injury
and concussion and it’s a very important message to send out to the sport
community, and the paralympic
sport community, that we have
paralympic heroes in our athletes,
in our leaders. – [Dave] And
for Karen, the Hall of Fame is all about marking those achievements for builders, coaches, and athletes
like Karolina. – [Karen] It’s a moment in time that we
as a community can come together to recognize and celebrate such tremendous
accomplishments. – [Dave] From a different kind of podium, in a room full
of her peers, Karolina closes
out the night. – I have gotten so much back from skiing and from the
paralympic movement than I could
ever give back in return so I am immensely grateful. Thank you. (audience applauding) – That is a powerful message from Karolina. – Agreed, she mentioned in her speech to everyone in attendance that the Paralympic movement’s come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. – Between her achievement on the hill and her dedication to concussion awareness, I agree with
Karen O’Neill. There is no one more deserving for this honor. – Absolutely, we want to extend a big
congratulations to all the 2017 inductees to the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame. If you want to learn more about the Hall of Fame, visit
paralympic.ca/halloffame.

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