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'Finding para sports again was amazing': Canada's Paralympic squad looks to bolster ranks with sit-skiers

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Lily Brook wasn't even a teenager yet when a degenerative bone disease put a stop to almost all activity.

No more running or skiing. Even walking is now challenging.

"I love sports so much. I always have," she said.

"For that short part of my life where I didn't have sports because I wasn't able to (play), I hated it, so coming back and finding para sports again was amazing for me."

Brook is now training to sit-ski. It's a category of para Nordic skiing where the athlete sits on a sled and manoeuvres themselves with poles.

This weekend, athletes wanting to learn the sport – or get better at it – are gathering in Canmore, Alta., for a development camp.

Trainers say the earlier athletes try sit-skiing, the further they can go with it.

"My goal is to get them as young as possible, so if they enjoy racing they can be champions and not just participants," said Colette Bourgonje, a bronze-medal-winning Paralympian and sit-ski coach.

"To have a couple 12-year-olds, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old right now, it's exciting to see what the future can be for them."

Canada's Paralympic squad wants to expand the number of sit-skiers competing – its team of one a few years ago has grown to a team of four already.

But trainers also say people can pursue the sport without having an eye on international competition.

"We are chasing podiums all the time. That's our team – that's what we want to be achieving," said Kate Boyd, high-performance director with the para Nordic ski team.

"But certainly, from a domestic standpoint, can we grow the sport and grow our talent pool and develop more skiers, whether it’s recreational or competition."

Brook says high-level competition is her long-term hope.

"My goal in sit-skiing is to take it as far as I can," she said.

"I want to eventually one day get up there with the other sit-skiers who've been competing internationally. I want to be one of those people."

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