NEWTON – Students at Strawberry Hill Elementary don’t normally meet athletes who have competed at the highest level of amateur sport, but last Friday (Oct. 17) was an exception.
Ashley Gowanlock, a member of Team Canada’s Paralympic dressage team, spent last week visiting schools across Surrey speaking to students about Right To Play.
Gowanlock, 27, was named an ambassador of the non-governmental organization, which educates children across the world on healthy living practices.
The Fleetwood resident spoke to the students about her struggles leading up to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and is glad to be part of Right To Play.
"I’ve been following Right to Play for a while now and I just love the program. It’s just kids and sports – two things that I love – and just thinking outside of yourself," she said.
Gowanlock added that the students bring a lot of energy and passion when they meet her.
"They get really excited. They want to play, want to get involved; they want to know about the sports.
"It’s way more fun than I was anticipating. (There are) so many kids (with) so much enthusiasm," she said.
Even though she finished in the top 10 in all three of the events she competed in at the London Games, Gowanlock said the best part about it was when she met disabled children and their families.
Gowanlock suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a cane, named Patrick, to walk.
Dressage is a sport where horse and rider work together to complete a series of memorized movements. Judges rate the performance of horse and rider on a 10-point scale.
Gowanlock said she is preparing for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and hopes to bring home a medal.