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The theme “Empowerment” has so much meaning to me, because I believe there is a unique and much-needed leader in all of us! Being confident and loving who you are is when you are at your most powerful, and I hope to inspire everyone to love the skin they are in and accept both their strengths and weaknesses. I was born a partial hand amputee, which basically means I am missing a few fingers on my left hand. My mom always believed that sports were the way to bridge any potential differences between myself and other kids. From a young age, I was able to understand that I was just like everyone else, and believed that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to!

I have been involved in sport since before I could walk, from crawling around the gymnastics centre, to learning to ski and ride horses. Sport has brought so many amazing things into my life including life-long friends, mentors, and coaches to look up to. It has given me the drive to better myself every day.However, not every aspect of my life in sport has been perfect or easy. Throughout my teen years I went through multiple bad ski crashes and multiple surgeries on both knees. There were some very dark times where I struggled to figure out who I was and what my motivations were. These times forced me to figure out who I wanted to be: what about me and my passions made me unique, and thus what sort of person and role model did I want to be for others?

Looking back on it now, those injuries and those moments where I was down made me into the person that I am today… and I am thankful every day that I chose to keep fighting, even when there were years where I couldn’t set foot on snow. Those moments of struggle make the moments of success that much more meaningful. They made me a fighter; they made me stronger; and, they put me completely in control of my life and what I wanted to do. Those difficult, dark moments actually empowered me to be the person I am today.

All of this work has given me the opportunity to compete for Canada and stand on the top of the podium with a gold medal around my neck, while the national anthem was played, at the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang. Through the highs and the lows of this sporting journey, I have also found the ability to be totally self-sufficient and view my disability not as a weakness, but as a strength.

Sport helps you explore your potential; it lets you see how strong you are; it forces you be comfortable in your own skin. This month, we challenge to you to not only empower yourself but to also empower others. Be the unique leader – authentically YOU – that your community needs… and help your friends, your family, and your teammates find the confidence they need to be the very best version of themselves, too.

Mollie Jepsen – Canadian National Para Alpine Team, Paralympic Gold Medalist