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Making a Difference with Cam Calkoen

Cam CalkoenTo call himself a "North Shorian" is one of Cam Calkoen's proudest traits for it is in this environment that he is inspired to make a difference and be the best that he can be. From athletics, through to community service and motivational speaking Cam has locally, nationally and internationally represented our region with pride and built networks into the many subcultures of our North Shore community. He is a monthly contributor to Channel.

Thanks Mr Laws...  

“Disability sports are ludicrous and shouldn’t be recognised alongside able-bodied pursuit” (Michael Laws 2010).

I would like to thank Mr. Michael Laws for bringing the attention of disability sport back into the media spotlight. But in contrast to his views disability sport is as competitive, ambitious, and as harsh as any other deserving all the recognition it can get.

For athletes with a physical disability come many challenges, most of which are set by themselves to become the best that they can be, a Paralympian and representative of New Zealand. The competition on route to the Paralympic Games is one of elite athleticism and as fierce as any other sport. An individual’s personal achievement just to compete takes a back seat for the hunger of winning medals.

When I was sprinting and competing against the best in the world I became accustomed to the reality that the time difference between fellow athletes finishing each race could be greater to the time difference seen in able-bodied races. Did this make it any easier to win? Far from it. In striving to finish the race faster than ever before I had to reconnect to the passion and search deep within myself for motivation that came by reflecting on the many hours (often the equivalent to a full-time job) spent training, by constantly challenging mind over matter, by imagining the pride of self and country when the flag is hoisted and the national anthem booms throughout the stadium for having won that ultimate gold medal.

It was passion that trumped logic on the day that New Zealand Paralympian Adam Hall heard “God Defend New Zealand” ripple throughout the stadium in Vancouver. His passion to become a winter Paralympic Champion had given him strength above the rest of his field to claim the gold after falling in the same race. To see his achievement as anything less than legendary is undermining his talent and it’s a challenge that’s unconceivable until experienced first hand.

Athletes across the board are competitive individuals who compete to be the best in the world. The competition is rightfully determined by biological makeup and when we start to look at presenting awards it is on these realities that achievement needs to be judged. The world is a competitive place and those who make it to the top don’t get there by anything other than dam hard work. For an athlete with a disability to win a top award within the New Zealand sporting community would be a victory for humanity.

I am grateful to live in a community that is supportive and encouraging of athletes with disabilities. But if disability sport lacks one thing it’s understanding. Next year is the fourteenth summer Paralympic Games, let’s find our athletes and share their stories, to increase understanding and encourage participation that sees greater success for New Zealand in the world of International sport.

Interesting facts:

  • In terms of athletes competing the Paralympic Summer Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, second only to the Summer Olympics.
  • Para’ stands for parallel (equal to), NOT paraplegic.
  • The term Paralympian is officially for athletes who have competed at the Paralympics that are held every four years
  • New Zealand hosted the 2011 IPC Athletic World Championships in Christchurch, the worlds biggest athletics event for athletes with disabilities.
  • To get involved check out www.paralympics.org.nz
by Cam Calkoen

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