Paralympic champion brings documentary to Yellowknife

Matt Stutzman
In a still from My Way to Olympia, US Paralympic archer Matt Stutzman is shown training.
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Paralympic champion Marnie Peters hopes to challenge stereotypes when she screens a documentary in Yellowknife on Wednesday.

Peters won wheelchair basketball gold with Canada at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.

Now, as part of NWT Disability Awareness Week, she’s in Yellowknife with a documentary entitled My Way To Olympia. (Entry to the screening is free – it runs from 7pm at Northern United Place.)

Shot in the run-up to the London 2012 Paralympics, the film follows disabled director Niko von Glasow as he comes to terms with something he hates: the Paralympics.

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“He thinks sports are stupid and, more importantly, that the Paralympics are stupid,” says Peters. “He totally doesn’t get what the big deal is about sports for people with disabilities, and why the Paralympics are such a big deal.”

Over the course of the documentary, Von Glasow’s preconceptions are challenged as he follows a one-handed Norwegian table tennis player, the Rwandan sitting volleyball team, an American archer without arms, and a Greek paraplegic boccia player.

Peters wants people to take at least two things from the movie: the first being the effect sports can have.

“Sports has had a huge impact on my life. I had a car accident when I was a teenager – like everybody else in the world, they think, ‘It’s never going to happen to me.’ And the reality was, it happened to me,” she tells Moose FM.

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“I was really big into sports before my accident. I was a big soccer player and cyclist. After my accident, a friend told me to try wheelchair basketball – and the truth is, I met some of my best friends playing wheelchair basketball. It taught me a lot about myself as a person, about overcoming obstacles and fighting through things.”

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The film’s second lesson concerns those obstacles: the barriers Peters and other disabled people face on a day-to-day basis.

“One of the things I hate most is when people say, ‘I know what you’re going through – I broke my leg and I was in a wheelchair for two weeks.’ Or they had eye surgery and had to wear a patch. Well, you know, you experienced some changes in your life but not what it was like to have a disability full-time,” she says.

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“The movie follows the challenges these athletes have – it makes people see the barriers society puts in front of us.

“I’m not disabled because I had a car accident. I’m disabled because we don’t do a very good job making sidewalks or building buildings. That’s what impedes me from achieving things, not my own capabilities.

“That’s what the movie gets through to people: disabled people are stopped from achieving by the barriers society puts in front of us.”

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Peters will also speak in a number of Yellowknife schools as part of NWT Disability Awareness Week.

“The challenges in the built environment, and with transportation and things, really aren’t much different in Yellowknife to many other parts of Canada,” she says.

“Sometimes there needs to be a bit more thought and consultation in terms of what are your needs, and how can we make that work?

“It’s incremental steps and you have to start somewhere. I think that’s partly where the North is at right now – but it’s recognizing that those same steps are happening in other cities as well.”

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