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Paralympian returns to childhood school

Despite all odds, Andrew Genge became a Paralympic snowboarder for Team Canada during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

An Oshawa native and Paralympian recently returned to his childhood school to share of message of never giving up.

Andrew Genge spoke to students at Vincent Massey Public School about his journey to the 2018 Paralympic Games.

Genge said that he never thought he’d be giving a speech to students at his old stomping grounds.

“I was exploring your school earlier,” said Genge. “There’s been a whole lot of changes since I was a student here. The gym in my day was where your library is. And you can imagine trying to play basketball in the library. This gym is much bigger.”

When he was only 15-years-old, Genge suffered a stroke. Now, at 29-years-old, he’s a Paralympic snowboarder for Team Canada.

In 2004, he suffered his stroke during a rugby game where he took a tackle that gave him multiple facial fractures, including a broken jaw. The break in his jaw sheered the carotid artery, and caused a 12-centimetre clot to go to his brain, which resulted in a stroke.

He says that he didn’t suffer the stroke until midnight that night, and it left him paralyzed on his right side.

He told the story of how he managed to stand up after the stroke and, feeling confident, he took his weight off of his left leg and immediately fell. He told the students that his right side was too weak to hold him up.

Faced with two choices, “either give up, or become 100 per cent back to normal,” However, being very active his entire, whole life, he wasn’t just going to give up.

So from then on he had one goal but he knew that wouldn’t be easy.

While it was a difficult journey for Genge, he said that with hard work and determination, he was not only walking again, but also back on his snowboard.

Just this year, Genge competed in the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Genge began skiing with him when he was only two-years-old at Brimacombe, a

“That was when my competitive spirit was born.”

However, at age 10, Genge became bored of skiing, so he switched to snowboarding.

During the winter after he had his stroke, he discovered that he could still snowboard and began snowboarding down his back hill.

“My father saw me having the time of my life, so he grabbed a rope and came outside to pull me along the flat sections,” said Genge. “I had such a blast.”

From that point on, snowboarding became a big focus for Genge, which can be seen in his making the Canadian Paralympic team in his sport.

After searching on the Internet to find out if there was a Paralympic snowboarding team, he was excited to find out that they did.

“On the first day trying out the snowboard cross course up at Craigleith Resort up in Collingwood, I teamed up with a coach who was also working with another adaptive athlete,” reflected Genge.

After telling the coach that his intentions were to win a medal at the Paralympics, the coach chuckled and told him that it will take a lot of hard work, focus and determination.

“My sister always said to me when I was going through rehab to ‘Train like an Olympian! Train like an Olympian!’” says Genge.

Genge came in third in his first ever world cup in 2016, which got him on the National Paralympic snowboard team.

He continued by earning another third place finish in 2017, and a fourth place finish later that year. So Genge was feeling antsy when he was finally selected as a member of Team Canada.

“All of the hard work, dedication and persistence led me to the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.”

Genge’s visit to Vincent Massey was facilitated through The Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence (FACE) Program.

FACE is a program started by Petro-Canada to help those with disabilities to reach their goal to become an Olympian or a Paralympian.

They do this by providing financial assistance to athletes who are not yet government funded. Each year they will select 55 aspiring athletes and coaches to award $10,000 to help with their journey, half of which goes to the athlete and half to the coach.

To date, FACE has helped over 3,000 Canadian athletes and coaches. They have provided over $11 million in financial support.

Before finishing his visit, Genge shared one last piece of advice with the students

“All of you have dreams about what you want to do with your lives,” said Genge. “Like be a fireman, or a police officer, or a nurse, or an Olympic star or Paralympic star. I was just like you.”