I don’t know what I was expecting from a blind Paralympics athlete, but it wasn’t Viviane Forest. Three things stood out:
- She’s little (5’3”).
- She exudes a confidence I just wasn’t expecting outside of her sport.
- She has the humor and timing of a stand-up comedienne.
Known as “The Falcon” for her ability to defy gravity, Viviane came from what she called a “typical” French Canadian family. Being born albino with limited vision didn’t prevent her family from treating her the same as her other siblings, she attended regular school, and excelled at every sport she applied herself to, and was the class clown. By grade six, her inability to read or write convinced her parents to send her to a blind school. Initially, she didn’t want to go and had an image of blind people sitting in rocking chairs, leading inactive and dull lives. Soon, the blind school where she was taught by blind teachers – altered her perceptions and the course of her life.
Despite injuries, crowds, and variables in skiing conditions,lessons learned from sports were a source of inspiration to her. The importance of focusing on the present moment, of supporting your team, of maintaining a positive attitude during training and competitions, and of having people (in her case a ski guide) who she can literally entrust with her life.
The lessons themselves we have all heard before. What we haven’t heard was Viviane’s gratitude over her blindness. She came from a family who didn’t have the money to support her in professional sports, without blindness, she would never have been able to compete in the Paralympics. Those experiences she wouldn’t trade for eyesight.