Canada's governing body for track and field was in Guelph on Monday to inspire the next star para-athlete and raise awareness about sports for those with physical disabilities.
Representatives from Athletics Canada and paralympic athlete Leah Robinson spent three hours at the University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium as part of a program called Give it a Try. During the session, participants were taught the finer points of wheelchair racing, shot put, the javelin throw and the seated discus.
Robert Hummel heard about the event from his doctor. He said he used to play a lot of sports when he was younger, but finds it more difficult to keep active now that he relies on a wheelchair to get around.
"I really haven't been all that involved in wheelchair sports," he said. "When I heard about this, I thought it might be interesting to come out and see what they had to offer."
While Hummel tried out a racing wheelchair, Charlotte Bolton, who has a form of dwarfism, was learning how to throw a rubber discus. The eleven-year-old managed to throw the disc further than any other participant, which didn't surprise her mother, Bridget Fearon.
"She's been pretty good at every athletic thing she's tried," Fearon said. "We're quite proud of her...because she's competing against people [who] are twice her height."
Fearon says it never occurred to her that there were sports available for people with physical disabilities like dwarfism. She heard about para-athletics a year ago and came to Monday's event to find out more.
According to Athletics Canada spokesperson Kayla Cornale, most people are unfamiliar with para-athletic sports and, as a result, the pool for paralympic talent is small.
"You can't get excited about something you don't know," she said. "So, we just want to inform people and let them know what we are doing and what they can do."
Cornale says she plans on hosting other Give It A Try events in Ontario over the next couple of months, including one on Aug. 27 in Windsor.
Although news seems to be travelling slowly--there were only a handful of people at the Alumni Stadium on Monday--Cornale isn't discouraged. If one person finds a life-long passion today, she said that would be enough for her.