For many athletes, COVID-19 has taken its toll. Competitions have stopped, and training has been forced to take on different forms.
However, on Thursday night, there was an evening of celebration as several athletes were honoured from across the country. Special Olympics Canada held a virtual ceremony to highlight the accomplishments of some of its athletes over the past year.
Nerissa Pooran of Toronto was among those being recognized. She was given the Dr. Frank Hayden Athlete lifetime Achievement Award.
The honour is given to someone who best exemplifies the spirit and philosophy of the Special Olympics movement over the course of their career.
“We just never anticipated and never could have thought about her achieving this today,” her mother Zita Pooran said.
Nerissa fell in love with track and field when she was eight years old.
At the age of 40, she is not slowing down.
Nerissa also competes in swimming and does not mind the long hours required to train.
Through Special Olympics Canada, Nerissa has competed at every level, including on the international stage.
But building the necessary skills to do that has not been easy.
“Nerissa is a very positive individual, she persists, she is determined to achieve,” Zita said. “She knows there are challenges, but she never says she can’t do something.”
Nerissa was born with microcephaly, a condition that affects the size and development of the brain.
For her, learning a new skill can take months, or even years to master.
Her brother Brendon Pooran said he always tries to make sure to be in the crowd during competitions. He adds that, for his kids, Nerissa is a bit of a superhero.
“The fact that she never cuts any corners, she never gives up and she keeps on thriving,” Brendon said.
Nerissa said she is eager to start competing again. Since the pandemic hit she has been training at home doing online sessions. Her mother said despite the added challenges, Nerissa remains focused and ready for whatever her future holds.
“I always try my best,” Nerissa said, “training to be the best that I could be.”