WEEK #48: KATTY ABRAN
Canadian T54 Para Athlete – Wheelchair Track – 100m, 200m, 400m
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in December of 1970 in Montreal Quebec in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve District where we find The Olympic Stadium, host to the 1976 Olympics. I remember watching the parade going down Sherbrooke Street and wondering, what I would need to do to be in the Olympics! Passionate about sports, in school, I would try to join whatever sport I could. In grade one, the school staged a mini Olympics where three teams were created: the Lions, the Beavers and the Turtles. Students where placed on the teams based on their physical ability. The Lions were the strong athletic kids, the Beavers were the average kids and the Turtles were the slow, non-athletic kids. I understood very well what that meant and I did not appreciate being put on the Turtle Team because I was slower and considered non-athletic due to being born with Spina-Bifida Myelmenigocele. I could use my legs but they weren’t as strong and able as the average person. Well, that lit a fire under me: I’m no Turtle! There were various physical challenges that every student had to accomplish and whoever did the best in their team won the medal; gold for the best Lion, silver for the best Beaver and bronze for the best Turtle. I was undefeated in all events and that bronze medal still hangs in my home to this day! Never underestimate me! I will work harder than anyone and I love a good challenge! That was the beginning of the road to my para athletic career. I continued to participate in track and field until the end of high school. I loved to run and my only goal was to never come in last… and I never did!! I couldn’t keep up with the able-bodied athletes and I wasn’t given the opportunity to use a wheelchair because I could walk and sort of run, therefore, I moved on from the sport to pursue my education and forge a life for myself after high school. Overcoming my learning disability, I graduated from l’Université de Montréal with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and later pursued my education where I graduated from l’Université Laurentienne with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Today, I live in London, Ontario working as a French Immersion teacher in grades 4, 5 and 6. Working with children is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I became a mother to my daughter in 1998 and she, it turns out, is a natural track and field athlete. I was so proud of her but at the same time I envied her. Watching her practice and compete…I had this undeniable need to be on that track! In 2015, due to health concerns, I decided to get fit with the hopes that in doing so, I could continue to use my legs. I have become healthier, fitter and stronger than I have ever been in my life. I completely changed my lifestyle around and turned myself into a para athlete. I figured I could get into para track. That flame inside of me was always there! I tried running with my legs but that was not working out so I was introduced to the race chair. That was it! I was hooked. When I’m in my chair, there is no disability…I’m strong and fast. Racing is pure joy! I was 45 years old when I first started to race and I’m still going strong holding my own and improving every year. I am very happy to be ranked first in Canada in the T54 women’s 100m and 200m in addition to being part of the Athletics Ontario Team. Thanks to this sport, I get to compete abroad in Arizona and most recently Switzerland. I don’t know if my dream to make it to the Paralympics will ever happen, but I will be the best that I can be and enjoy the process: wherever that takes me…here I come!
Please share a story about an internal or external barrier you have faced.
When you have a disability there are many barriers: physical, educational, psychological, social, financial, professional, medical, mostly social barriers though. There’s always a challenge of some sort and even though they can make me feel uncertain, anxious, angry or morose, there’s always something good in the outcome. Here are some examples.
Until May of 2019, other than an uneven gait, my disability was not apparent. Since May, I am now an ambulatory wheelchair user. I always knew my disability would catch up to me and it has: it is a good thing that I am fit and healthy to take on these changes. I was always told to use my legs, that a wheelchair wasn’t necessary, that I was lucky. There is never any luck in having any kind of disability or disease. People’s reactions to my using a wheelchair has been that of pity and sorrow for me. However, for me, it is a blessing! I should have done it years ago. I have become so much more mobile and my body is benefiting from not having to work so hard to keep me walking. There’s nothing wrong with wheels, I am not disabled ( I have a disability), I am not weak and certainly not to be pitied. I’m strong and independent, nothing gets in my way. People’s perceptions need to change and I’m a strong advocate for that. There is always good that comes out of everything. I believe that the difficulties and challenges in my life were necessary in making me the strong, well-rounded and successful woman I am today.
How did you overcome that barrier? What skills did you develop in sport that helped you overcome your barrier?
Fitting in socially has always been a challenge because I have one foot in the able-bodied world and one in the disability world. Ostracized and bullied throughout my elementary and high school years, I learned to adapt and to rely on myself. I’m fiercely independent but I’m also grateful for those who I can count on and who support me. I believe there will always be people on my journey who will be there for me at the right time. They help accompany me to where I’m going just as I do for others. The universe always has a plan! As trying as those years were, those difficult times were key in building the woman I am today. I learned to redirect my energy to what benefits me and persevered day after day, facing the