Although Gabriel Denis was ineligible to win a medal in his first two races, this young athlete has shown outstanding Sportsmanship throughout these games and life in general.
Gabriel Denis is 17 years old from Matheson Ontario, a small town outside of Timmins. Denis started cross country skiing three years ago and has improved dramatically during that time. Born with cerebral palsy, Gabriel’s balance and speech are affected. Since Balance is such a crucial component of cross country ski technique, it makes his efforts so much more remarkable.
Denis is competing in the Paranordic Standing competition. Unfortunately, he only has two other competitors and both are double his age. Because there are less than four in his category, when finishing in third place, he is ineligible to receive a medal. Gabriel Denis has finished 3rd in both races he has competed in here at the Canada Winter Games. In Tuesday’s Sprint Qualification round, he did have the 2nd fastest time, but finished 3rd in the final head to head competition.
Not to down play the efforts of his two competitors, as their efforts are equally remarkable with each of them with a story of their own. However, Gabriel has not allowed the Canada Games technicality to get him down. You can always find him with a smile, a joke to share and a positive comment. He is a positive role model for the whole Ontario Cross Country contingent and is respected by his coaches and peers for his outstanding “sunny” attitude. When at home in Matheson, Gabriel volunteers with his community Volunteer Fire Department along with jumping in to help his community in other ways as well.
Gabriel Denis dreams of qualifying for a future Paralympics after finishing college. I have no doubt that if positive attitude and a great work ethic are the recipe to success, then this young man will achieve his goals.
If the Canada Games gives out Sportsmanship awards, this young man should be first in line.