Spread the Love is at the heart of both my athletic career and my daily life. I have been involved in sport since I was a child and over the years there were moments when I really enjoyed what I was doing… but I never felt a true love for it. Years later, after some time away from sport, I found myself feeling out of shape, overweight and unhappy. I joined a gym and found my calling for training, fitness, and an active lifestyle. I began adding new sports I had never participated in before, including swimming, and they really became the central focus of my life. In fact, it was joining the gym in 2000 and the passion I found there that put me on the path to Rio.
Along this journey in sport, what means the most to me has been spreading my love of training, fitness, and nutrition with others. Sometimes this has been done in a fully conscious and planned way with speaking presentations or stories in the media. Other times, it has happened on a simpler level by someone seeing me train or watching me ride my handcycle up a tough hill. I don’t specifically set out each day to convert the world into fitness addicts or to make people train like an Olympian/Paralympian, but I do live a purposefully active and healthy lifestyle. I find that walking the talk, or, in my case, wheeling the talk, to be a more effective way of spreading the love!
All the work I put in has given me some big, amazing experiences like wearing the maple leaf and competing for Canada. It has also given me many smaller victories such as making it much easier to put my chair in/out of my vehicle, keeping me strong for transferring in/out of my chair, and helping me continue to live independently with ease. I feel that when people look at me I am first seen as an athlete, and then maybe a para-athlete…but I am seldom seen as just someone in a wheelchair. Sport has given me confidence and freedom – it truly has helped me see myself differently and helped others see me differently. After people meet me or see me training, I hope their perspective on others with disabilities shifts – another way I can see the results of spreading the love! I want people, able bodied or with physical challenges alike, to be inspired by what sport has done for me, and channel that passion in their own life, in their own way. This month, we challenge you to embrace your passions, and see how far you can spread the love.
Tammy Cunnington – Rio Paralympian
Check out the film “Power on Water” featuring Tammy, above, and learn more here.