A wheelchair-bound former freestyle skier from the Comox Valley has been asked to carry the torch for the Paralympic Games, which start March 12.
Jim Milina’s part of the relay will take place March 11 at the University of British Columbia.
The Paralympic Torch Relay begins March 3 in Ottawa and will spend ten days crossing the country before lighting the Paralympic Torch at the opening ceremony in BC Place on March 12.
Milina’s spinal cord injury occurred while in pursuit of his Olympic dream.
“Yeah, I was the B.C. freestyle skiing champion in 1981 at 17,” he recalled in a news release. “I had my sights set on skiing for Canada in Calgary in 88.
“But missing the landing on a double-back (somersault) changed all that.”
Breaking his neck left him a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
“It was tough but really it was just another challenge I figured, except instead of competing on the outside, I was struggling for my independence and as normal a life as I could achieve.”
Milina remembers meeting Rick Hansen while at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, and credits Hansen for much of his success and independence.
“Rick wheeled around the world to help people exactly like me, and that had a profound affect on me, and inspired me to many of my accomplishments.”
In 2002, Milina became the first quadriplegic to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in eastern Africa and in doing so established a world altitude record for a quadriplegic at just under 15,000 feet.
The expedition was also the first wheelchair ascent of the north side of the mountain. By descending via a southern route, they became the first expedition to ever climb over the mountain.
In the times since returning from his expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro, Milina has settled in the Comox Valley with his wife and longtime resident Corrine Gailloux, and the couple now have two children aged two and six.
Milina has helped make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in the Comox Valley as well as being chairperson of the local Rick Hansen Wheels In Motion event and is also a national ambassador for the event.
More information on Wheels In Motion can be found at www.comoxvallaywheelsinmotion.com, and more information about Milina and the expedition can be found at www.cordclimbs.ca.
“Carrying the torch will be a great honour for me as I have always looked at the Olympics and Paralympics as the pinnacle of athletic achievement. Being a part of it will be very special for me.”
Milina will carry the Paralympic torch on March 11 in Vancouver at UBC sometime between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with details becoming available at www.vancouver2010.com.