Nova Scotia

Brenda MacDonald hopes to inspire at Canada Winter Games

The countdown is on for athletes who are heading to the Canada Winter Games, but for one skier from Nova Scotia, just qualifying has been a huge accomplishment.

16-year-old skier ready to compete nationally after skiing for just three years

Brenda MacDonald, 16, started skiing to prove people with disabilities can do any sport. (CBC)

When Brenda MacDonald snapped on her first set of skis three years ago, she never imagined they'd take her to the Canada Winter Games.

MacDonald, 16, has neurofibromatosis — small tumours that have left her blind in one eye, and with limited vision on the right side. 

But the teen is fearless, and decided she wouldn't let her vision hold her back from the slopes.

I want to prove it doesn't matter what disability you have, you can do whatever you want- Brenda MacDonald

"It's freeing," she said. "I know I won't be able to drive a car, so I can experience the speed of going down a course and I can have more fun."

MacDonald skis with a guide. They use radios to talk while they go down the hills. 

"We're in constant communication about what's happening on the hill, so changes in pitch, what runs we're going to be doing, how fast we're going," said her dad, Stephen, who occasionally acts as her guide.

Constant practice

When MacDonald first discovered the sport, the family turned to the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing for help. CADS holds several events in Nova Scotia, which helped MacDonald try different slopes and competitions in the Maritimes.

She was shocked when she was named to Team Nova Scotia for the para-alpine division at the Canada Games.

"It's amazing," said MacDonald. "I'm nervous. I don't know what to expect or what will be happening when I'm out there."

Brenda MacDonald and her parents, Stephen and Valentina, will be heading to the Canada Games early so Brenda can learn the route. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The family is leaving for British Columbia this weekend to allow MacDonald time to train on the new route before she competes on Feb. 15. 

Her father says he'll be far more nervous than Brenda on the day of the competition.

"As parents, we'll be sitting on the sidelines, probably biting all our fingernails off. But Brenda really does get focused out there," he said.

MacDonald is hopeful she will make the podium, but her goal is just to make Nova Scotia proud.

"I want to prove it doesn't matter what disability you have, you can do whatever you want."

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