CORNER BROOK Terry Gardner welcomes with open arms an opportunity to be himself and rub shoulders with people who share similar challenges.
The Corner Brook native was among a handful of blind or visually impaired members of the Corner Brook Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind who participated in the 2012 Atlantic Sports Weekend in St. John’s. The annual event, featuring 71 athletes from all over Atlantic Canada, was held in Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time.
More importantly, it was the first time for the Corner Brook Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind because the group was only born in 2010.
Gardner was pleased with how the group fared in the medal count, but he was quick to point out that participation is always key whether you win or lose. Being afforded an opportunity to hang out with other blind or visually impaired athletes was the best part of the whole experience for him.
“The great thing about that is you get an opportunity to be yourself,” Gardner, chosen the Best All Around Partially Blind Athlete, said Tuesday morning. “You get an opportunity to relax because you know you’re sitting by the side of somebody just like you, so to speak. Not somebody who is questioning or wondering, this kind of thing.”
“You’re going to talk to somebody who, chances are, have gone through the same thing ... the struggles of what vision loss brings,” he added.
His first trip to Atlantic Sports Weekend won’t be his last. The experience has left him with hope for the future because he’s fully aware that there are very few opportunities created with people like him in mind.
“It gave everybody a little bit of hope, something to look forward to,” he said. “One of the things about vision loss is that there’s not a whole lot of opportunity out there, so if you can create an opportunity for somebody to have some thoughts of the future and things to look forward to this is what this is all about because when you have structure in your life it changes from the negative side to the positive side.”
The Corner Brook contingent of athletes participating in the weekend event included Bruce Barrett of Stephenville, Anthony Gaulton of Goose Bay and city natives Katie Colbourne, Ben Goulding, Barb Pike, Darrell Pike, Dot Vincent and Marjorie Pike.
Competing in the visually impaired category, Gardner captured top spot in the partially blind men’s darts event and nabbed first place in the 60-m race and 100-m race. Bound for Ottawa today where he will compete in a 10-kilometre run later this week, Gardner claimed second place in shot put and tied for second with Anthony Gaulton in the men’s horseshoe toss.
So, what was his reaction to being chosen best overall partially blind athlete?
“I think that’s great. I’m very surprised. I don’t know what to say about that one,” he said.
Bruce Barrett got the nod as the best overall totally blind athlete after claiming first place in the 60-m race and third in the 100-m race, while capturing top spot in men’s horseshoe toss and men’s darts.
Barb Park, who is totally blind, won the women’s horseshoes crown in her group before claiming bragging rights to the women’s darts championship crown.
Ben Goulding, also competing in the totally blind men’s bracket, nabbed second place in both the 60-m race and 100-m race as well as third spot in the 400-m event.
Anthony Gaulton claimed third place in men’s darts for athletes partially blind.
“I’m extremely pleased and proud that we did as good as we did. We did fantastic,” Gardner said. “Everybody participated and everybody had a good time and the bottom line is that it was all about participation. It was great to come away with all these awards.”