The spring after the Games plays an important part of the quadrennial towards the next Games. Whether you consider it the recovery of the previous Games or the beginning of the next. It allows you to recover physically and mentally. It allows you an opportunity to try something new. Go somewhere different. Experience something that may change your outlook on life. A chance to step ‘away’ from sport and focus on your priorities in life being athletic or elsewise. There finally feels like some time to catch up on life that has been put on hold so you may achieve your best. Whether that is a personal best or a World record. An athlete needs this time to recharge. For me to the past three months has been a time to celebrate the past and look to the future. I took great pride in sharing my medals with family, friends and neighbours, strangers; children or adults. Looking back on the entire journey, from where I took my first shot to when I stood on the podium. What I’ve learn since the beginning and how I developed as an athlete in the past four years. Asking myself, where do I want to be in four years’ time? Realizing that my strengths have gotten me this far. Now I want to work on my weaknesses to take me further.
The time since leaving Sochi has been busy. First, I found myself digging deep in Nicaragua, bumping elbows with some of the best skiers in Canada. We were there to help SchoolBOX build a school in a deserving neighbourhood. I returned to Canmore just long enough to wash my laundry before flying east to a heartfelt welcoming to Prince Edward Island.
It had been nearly two years since I last visited the Island. The trip was three weeks long but there were very few days where I had nothing planned. Between school visits, formal events, club get-togethers and training, the schedule filled up rather quickly. I enjoyed every minute of it. To share my experiences from the Games, the journey getting there and see that spark ignite in the eyes of children as they held one of the medals. To know that just maybe a simple gesture of holding a Paralympic medal may inspire a dream to take root, guiding a life to greatness in whatever they chose to do. Visiting the schools was a great time, most of the schools I had gone to myself, Central Queens, East Wiltshire and Bluefield. Returning to familiar halls and seeing former teachers was good but to share my story with the students was the real highlight. One of the events I attended that I will cherish the most was a get together with my hometown. This meant a lot to me. When I had my accident this community went well beyond to help me and my family through a trying time. It was through this community’s actions that I learned what community stands for. Since then I have dedicated much of my life to giving back.
As a surprise, the Province announced that they will be renaming the competition trails at the Brookvale Provincial Nordic Centre in my honour. Playing with the fact that my last name begins with ‘A’ and ends in ‘Z’ I choose the name of ‘Mark’s A-2-Z’. In the final week the events began to spread out a bit but became more formal. With a speech to the Bronze and Silver Level recipients of the Duke of Edinburgh program. As a Gold Level recipient myself, I enjoyed listening to the endless list of names. Names of young people that are taking an interest in physical activity, developing new skills and community involvement all to become better citizens. My final event before returning to the mountains was in a way the most formal of them all. But in reality it was very causal and a lot of fun. Over the Victoria Day week Prince Charles and Camilla had planned a Royal visit to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. I was invited to attend one of the events on the Island and to meet Prince Charles. The Prince enjoys the outdoors, in particular fly fishing and hiking. As a less formal event then some of the others, the Prince was guided on a pleasant walk along some trails showcasing some of the hidden beauty the Island holds. One of the stops along the trail was a group of Island athletes. The athletes included Billy Bridges (Sledge Hockey), his wife Sami Jo Small (Women’s Ice Hockey), Veronica Keefe (Wrestling), Heather Moyse (Bobsled) and me. The Prince came up to us, shook our hands and we had a wonderful conservation with him. It showed that the Prince was very passionate about sports and being activity. We had some great laughs; everyone enjoying themselves in this causal atmosphere.
It was quite the final event on the Island, capping off an amazing trip back home. After some great weeks on the road and celebrating it had come time to return to Canmore to once again focus in on the next goals.


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