Within a physiotherapy context, sport is often used as a motivator or end-goal for people recovering from an injury. Returning to one’s sport is viewed as milestone objective and it provides clinician and client a concrete direction for their purpose at physiotherapy (or during physiotherapy sessions).
Sometimes, however, sport is part of the therapy and it gives the client meaningful, fun, and productive tasks/movements that can aid in their recovery. The act of participating in a sport can contribute to improving overall physical wellness, and it also provides a mental outlet for people recovering from injuries that have longer-laster effects.
The personal story of Tiffany Ayne-Gaudette, one of our amazing clients is a shining example of the power of sport in recovery.
Tiffany Ayne Gaudette’s Personal Story
Before her spinal cord injury, Tiffany Ayne Gaudette was never into sports, so it was not something she ever saw herself doing. But a friend she met while at Lyndhurst SCI Rehabilitation encouraged her to try wheelchair racing. At the time, she was at her heaviest, she had very little confidence, and still was coming to terms with her disability. She would always give an excuse as to why she could not participate.
After years of physical rehabilitation as an in-patient and out-patient, and then attending Propel upon discharge, all she knew was therapy, rest and doctors’ appointments. It was only then that parasport began to seem more appealing. Her interest was further peaked leading up to the 2015 Toronto Para/Pan Am Games, and all the excitement building around the major international event.
After attending Toronto Para Pan Am Games events and ceremonies as a spectator, the passion was fully ignited. She had never seen so many people with disabilities in one place, especially participating in sports.
She was inspired to take up recreational wheelchair track at Variety Village. During that time, she also attended the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Paralympian search. It was here that one of the members watching her test mentioned she would be good in field events. Initially, she did not think much of it, as she had no idea where to even pursue that option.
A year later, Tiffany moved to Mississauga and began to train with Cruisers Sports for the Physically Disabled in track. Her first track competition, she found her current field coach Ken Hall, who encouraged her to try throwing that same day. After her first throw, she was hooked and knew it was the sport for her.
Tiffany now competes in seated discus, javelin, and shotput at the national level. The coaches have always encouraged her to try several different parasports to see what she enjoys. Through Cruisers, she has also had the opportunity to try competitive wheelchair basketball, competitive sledge hockey, which she also continues to play recreationally. The program has helped her to find her real passions in parasport.
“Parasport has brought so much to my life. I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing volunteers, coaches, fellow athletes of all levels and gain a sense of community, structure and routine, which I lost with all the changes in my life after my injury,” said Tiffany Ayne Gaudette. “But most of all, it has given me passion, focus and feeling of usefulness; which in return has helped me regain my confidence, accept my disability, focus on my mental health, physical health and overall well being.”
Parasport opened up other opportunities for Tiffany as well. She is a Parasport Ontario Ambassador, and a director and volunteer for Cruisers Multi-Sports and Boccia program for children with disabilities and their siblings. Her message to these kids is that anything is possible with hard work and out-of-the-box thinking. She encourages them to take risks and try new things.
Tiffany had to try some new tasks and activities multiple times before it felt comfortable. Sometimes, it did not and she had to move on to the next thing. Her willingness to persist, adapt and let go, has been the key to her success.
Her long-term goal is to qualify for the 2020 or 2024 Paralympics in discus, javelin and shotput. In order to achieve these goals, her short-term plan is to strengthen her core and upper body enough to increase her power, speed and flexibility for throws. She will be working on strength and conditioning in the off season to prepare herself for next season and declaring for Worlds or Pan Am Games 2019.
Training for Competition
Tiffany has been working with Propel Physiotherapy’s Martha Garrick. Martha is an exercise physiologist who is passionate about helping her clients achieve their health and rehabilitation goals. She believes that by becoming more efficient in our day to day movements, we can significantly improve our quality of life.
To achieve this, she helps people to increase overall strength and coordination and to incorporate regular exercise into their lifestyle. Martha has put together a program for Tiffany that includes improving her range of motion and flexibility overall. This will benefit her in every aspect of her life from sport to every day tasks like wheelchair transfers.
Tiffany is currently ranked 8th in shotput, 10th in discus, and 13th in javelin in the Para Athletics international ranking for F56 classification. She is trying to move up one ranking in each discipline in the coming season. She recently changed the way she throws so she can generate more power. Her training program is customized to help her do just that.
“Tiffany is just short of her distance to qualify for the Canadian Paralympic team. Since this is her primary focus, we are working to fine tune her technique so she can actually get better distance when she throws,” says Martha Garrick. “We do exercises that focus on her trunk rotation and getting better control on her non-dominant side, as well as work on overall strength and flexibility.”
We are all big fans of Tiffany, here at Propel, and will be in her corner as she works towards her goals. No matter how far she goes competitively her sport, we know she is already a winner because she has created a community and a purpose around her passion.