Portraits of the Paralympics: Kimberly Joines
As one the world’s best sit-skiers, Kimberly Joines has placed first in many International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup events, and in the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, she took home the bronze for the Super-G. Currently pursuing gold in Sochi, Kimberly is driven by her love of the mountains, mountain culture, and athleticism in general. Even after sustaining a spinal cord injury while snowboarding that left her paralyzed from the waist down, she quickly took up sit-skiing, which as she says, “…opened some amazing doors to me and allowed me to pursue athletics probably at a more competitive level than I ever would have able-bodied.”
While she plans to focus on her skiing for some time to come, Kimberly’s ambitions outside of sport are no less impressive. She recalls pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce through the University of Alberta. “That was really tough at the time. I was living in Edmonton and going to school full-time, and working full-time, and training full-time, and, obviously, there aren’t three of you. It was quite difficult and strenuous for me.” But in the end, she feels that, like in sport, it was worth the struggle: “I figured a B. Comm was a fairly broad degree to allow me to pursue a variety of things. I had always wanted to open a bar in a ski town. But my ideas have changed over time and at this point I can see myself going back to school to become an acupuncturist. I have a lot of interest in that and I realize it’s something I can do in my chair with very little tax to my body. But my life has always presented opportunities to me. Breaking my back became an opportunity to pursue being a Paralympic athlete. I just have a feeling that life’s going to point me in the right direction when I’m done.”
Although Kimberly is very much an advocate of going with the flow of life, she doesn’t discount the importance of mapping a path for yourself. “You can make plans and it helps you to provide focus and goals and structure to your priorities, but you can’t follow your plans with blinders on because life is too much of an open book and unpredictable., If you’re too set on the plans that you make, you might miss out on some really good opportunities in the meantime. As athletes, we spend a ton of time goal planning; we plan what we’re going to do for the run, for the day, for the camp, for the year, for the four-year block – we spend a lot of time planning and mapping things out. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get injuries along the way. You definitely have to be open to change despite mapping. But I do think that there’s value in it, just to give you some direction.”
In fact, just as in the world of work, the world of sport often witnesses planning and the unpredictable nature of life coming into conflict. Sit-skis themselves are a perfect example, and a great analogy for what happens in many industries when technology changes the game. “With the sit-skis over the past 20 to 30 years, the change has been massive. They went from being like a children’s toboggan, practically, to current ones that are more comparable to a $10,000 downhill mountain bike with crazy shocks and geometry. We’re trying to use the sit-ski to do what the hips, knees and ankles are doing. So the closer it can get to those movements, the better we as the drivers are able to accomplish the line and speed and techniques that an able-bodied skier uses in racing. So, it’s been pretty huge, specifically for us on the Canadian team; we’ve been building and working on a sit-ski since pre-2010, and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster; it’s been a lot of trial and error. Change is hard, but I think that with the product we’re riding now, it was necessary to get to a place where the technology was better. And if you don’t take that risk, then you’ll probably get left behind by everyone else who’s continuing to change and improve.”
About to put her skills to the test in Sochi, Kimberly offers the following advice to everyone out there pursuing greatness in any field: “Plan, prepare, and practice to the best of your ability. But you have to have patience when things don’t happen as you expect. Be open to change and grab opportunities when life provides them.”
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