Paralympian named ambassador for Right To Play

NEWTON – Students at Strawberry Hill Elementary don’t normally meet athletes who have competed at the highest level of amateur sport, but 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 that educates children across the world on healthy living practices.

She spoke to the children 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,” said the Fleetwood native.

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.

Right To Play is an organization that was started by former Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss. The Norwegian is a hero in his country after winning three gold medals on home soil at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games.

Right To Play works in 20 countries and territories across the globe, including Rwanda, Kenya, Peru, Pakistan and the West Bank, to name a few.

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