________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 32. . . .April 23, 2010


Moving Forward: The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje.

Mary Harelkin Bishop.
Regina, SK: DriverWorks Ink (www.driverworks.ca), 2010.
160 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-0-981039442.

Subject Headings:
Athletes with disabilities-Saskatchewan-Biography.
Bourgonje, Collette .

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

*** /4



Colette was a paraplegic.

For this elite athlete, the lack of control was often terrifying, devastating and surreal. She felt like she was living someone else’s nightmare but she locked up her fears and worries and put on a courageous competitor’s face for her family.

In her youth, Colette Bourgonje was a superb athlete, excelling in every sport she tried. In addition to her athletic prowess, she had the determination and will to win of a champion. At age 18 in 1980, hoping to go to university and looking forward to a life of competition in the sports she loved, she was in a serious car accident, one which almost killed her. She survived, but barely. “Her spine was 98% severed. Her back was broken.” If that wasn’t enough, she had a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a punctured lung. Colette became a paraplegic and would never walk again. Her future looked bleak indeed. A lesser person would likely have succumbed to her disabilities and become a burden to others. Colette did not. She is not the kind of person who is easily defeated. Instead of giving in, she overcame her disabilities and became a paraathlete, one of the best in the world. Her story is a story of courage and determination in the face of adversity and an inspiration to all young people, be they able-bodied or disabled. In Moving Forward, the story of Colette’s life up to 2009, she becomes larger than life, a heroine for all Canadians to admire. Her biography is most suitable for recreational reading.

    Colette grew up in Porcupine Plane, a small town in Saskatchewan. A natural athlete, she played hockey on a boy’s team and quarterbacked her school’s junior football team. In addition to her physical skills, she had a mental attitude that helped to make her a winner even after misfortune struck. Like many outstanding athletes, she is “competitive, stubborn, …tenacious…. and focused.”

     Moving Forward has a two page “Snapshot of Colette’s Achievements” over her thirty-year athletic career. It is an amazing list of awards and honours, and a list which is not yet over. (She is a member of Canada’s Para-Nordic World Cup Team and competed in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games.) The volume also has 13 pages of black and white decorative photographs grouped together in four different places, most showing Colette performing in various paralympic competitions or receiving awards.

     In paralympic competitions, Colette became a wheelchair athlete and one of the world’s best, winning many medals, including a gold in the 800 metre race at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. In Winter Paralympics, she competes in sit-skiing. This unusual sport has the athlete sitting in a chair attached to a pair of skis. In both challenging sports, Colette has competed around the world.

     In 1984, Colette became the first female in a wheelchair in Canada to graduate with a Phys Ed degree. A year later, she earned a degree in Education. In between sporting events, she became employed as a part-time teacher in Saskatoon. This part-time workload suited her life style because it gave her the time to train for future competitions.

     Also a schoolteacher in Saskatoon, author Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story and four books in the “Moose Jaw Adventure” series.


Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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