Jeff Adams knows what it takes to win — in sports and in life.
The three-time Olympian, five-time Paralympian and six-time world champion shared his secrets to success for an audience at St. Joseph’s Health Centre on May 11.
The visit, in celebration of National Nursing Week, had a particular significance to Adams. He suffered from cancer as a child and became all too familiar with hospitals.
He survived it, but the negative effects of radiation treatment permanently damaged his spinal cord.
“Healthcare professionals have had a profound impact on my life,” Adams said. “I’ll drop anything anytime I can to thank them for the job they do.”
Though Adams had to start using a wheelchair at an early age, he didn’t let that stop him from becoming the athlete he wanted to be.
After collecting 13 medals as one of the country’s most notable paralympians, Adams conquered another feat when in 2002, he climbed all 1,776 steps of the CN Tower in a custom-made wheelchair.
Today, he is inspiring others to overcome their challenges.
“We don’t really control the good or bad things that happen to us but what we do control all the time is the way we react,” Adams said. “It’s a very powerful thing to know that you have that ability”.
Speaking of his personal trials and tribulations with humour and grace, Adams had the room enamoured.
“These things that happen aren’t good things,” Adams said of his struggle through illness. “But being able to react, having the strength to fight and to choose to make a difference in your life and the lives of others is what drives me every day.”
However Adams wouldn’t have been able to have that strength without support. He spoke of one particularly tough wheelchair race he had to finish while suffering from an injury. With 200 metres to go and in “every shade of pain”, Adams was close to giving up.
But when he heard the crowd cheering his name, he persevered. At that moment, he said, he realized that the “sounds of celebration” were “sounds of support”.
He garnered the silver medal for that race, but considers it his best medal as it serves as a reminder of what happened that day.
“Listen for that sound of support but most importantly, make that sound,” Adams said.
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