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Paralympic Super Athlete – Golden Moments

June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Special Features, Success Story


Golden MomentsThe buzzer sounds and for three and a half minutes Victoria Nolan pulls on her paddles with all her might, feeling the tension of the water through her arms. A year of intense training has led up to this crucial moment, and soon she’ll have her victory.

“To come out and win gold, you realize that this is what it takes, and it was all worth it,” she says of her and her team’s triumph in the adaptive rowing event at the 2010 World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. She has maintained this philosophy of hard work while training for this year’s adaptive rowing event at the London Paralympics. Dedication and perseverance are common words in Nolan’s vocabulary. Diagnosed with an eye disease at 18, she discovered that she had been gradually losing her eyesight for years. With the birth of her two children accelerating her condition, Nolan was left with three per cent of her vision. As a result, she became

withdrawn. “I was afraid to even leave the house by myself.”

Her story, however, is one of a fighter. Deciding to face her disability head-on, Nolan turned to sports. But her eye condition often made her seem clumsy, and no one, including Nolan, thought athleticism was the right course. After discovering that Toronto’s Argonaut Rowing Club offered a program for people with disabilities, the prospect of support drew her in. It was a perfect fit.

“When I started rowing, I just took off – I was a natural,” she says with a laugh.

After starting off as a pastime, Nolan soon embraced her competitive spirit. She was determined to become faster, stronger and to win. It helped to push her limits and earn enough success to restore hope. Within a year, she strove for and achieved a position on the national team. “Rowing has been an outlet where I am really able to see what I am capable of and really excel,” she says.

Although rowing came easy, her life is not without its necessary adjustments. A wife, mother, teacher and athlete, Nolan has learned to balance her four roles. Training three to four hours a day, six days a week, Nolan finds time for rowing before going home to be with her husband and two children. “It’s difficult,” she says of the balancing act. “It’s been a really tough year.”

To manage, she turns to friends and family. “You have no idea how much that gives you energy and motivation to do what you do,” she says. As her No. 1 supporter and biggest fan, Nolan’s husband has been there through her bleakest moments and continues to encourage her throughout the journey. Nolan’s two children are also behind her every step of the way, serving as her main motivation. They often come to her training camps and plan on being there in London, England to cheer her on.

Nolan is also one of 18 “Super Athletes” going to London this summer. The Super Athlete Campaign celebrates the hard work and achievement of Canada’s winter and summer Paralympians, and seeks to raise awareness and national support for the upcoming games.

“Every [Paralympian] has an amazing story before you get to their sport. They’ve all had to overcome something,” Nolan says. “The Paralympians who are at the top of their game are training as much as Olympic athletes.”

Brian McKeever, Super Athlete and Paralympics cross-country skier, has been a particular inspiration for Nolan. As another athlete with a visual impairment, she admired his achievements, which further inspired her along the path to success.

“It’s a triumph of the human spirit, training, competition and athleticism,” says CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee Henry Storgaard. All it takes is reading the profiles and stories of these individuals to realize that the title ‘Super Athlete’ is truly the right fit.”

To learn more about the Super Athletes Campaign, visit


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