Reflecting on a Paralympic experience

Kimberley's Vladimir Kopecky returns home after Paralympics.

Canadian national Paralympic archery coach Vladimir Kopecky of Kimberley.

It was, in many ways, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, although the results were less than many may have expected.

Kimberley’s Vladimir Kopecky just returned earlier this week from the London Paralympics. He led his archery team into London a few weeks ago with high hopes for gold. One of his brightest hopes was Jaffray’s Kevin Evans, going in on a hot streak and a favourite for gold.

“We did get a bronze medal, (Norbert Murphy, Mens Compound Bow), and it was the first time Canada got an archery medal at the Paralympics,” Kopecky said. “That was at least something, but it was maybe not what we had hoped for. Since October of last year, every competition we went to, Canada won at least two medals.”

While making no excuses for his team’s performance Kopecky said there were some unexpected developments that threw the team off.

“There were some unexpected changes in what you are allowed to use, equipment like scopes. A level in the scope was not allowed before but in April when the governing body put out a list of banned equipment the level was not on it. But only the Americans knew about it. Naturally, they won the golds.”

Kopecky said the equipment issue was protested, but the protest was denied.

“It was very unfair to those who didn’t know I thought,” he said.

He doesn’t really know how the Americans found out about the change in rules when other teams didn’t, but has to be philosophical about it.

“They have noses everywhere I guess,” he said with a laugh. “Still they did end up winning the gold medals.”

But aside from team disappointment was the Paralympic experience itself, from the opening and closing ceremonies to meeting athletes from all over the world.

“It was an amazing experience,” Kopecky said. “I had been to London twice before this year and I thought the food would not be good. I was wrong. They fed us so well it was a wonder we could see our knees when we returned home. The weather was great, after a few iffy days, it was nothing but sunshine.

“And walking around — they encouraged us to wear our Canadian colours, and people would stop you and cheer for you. A policeman said the Paralympians are so much nicer people than the Olympians.”

All in all, the fulfillment of a dream from a life in coaching, he says.

“In 1960 I met a man who was an Olympic swimming coach. He made such an impression on me — a man who I considered so important talking to me. He inspired me to coach. To go to the Paralympics as a coach was very pleasing to me.”

Kopecky has often spoken of how much being named Canada’s national coach for archery for these Paralympics has meant to him as an immigrant.

Vladimir Kopecky was born in Kremnica, Slovak Republic and started coaching track & field in1959. In 1963, he enrolled in a coaching university in Bratislava, studying track and field, and cross country skiing. At the time he was coaching track and field along with soccer. He earned his diploma in 1968 and arrived in Canada with his wife the same year.

In spring 1969, Kopecky started coaching athletics with Geoff Gowan in the Toronto area until 1975. That year, he relocated with his family to Kimberley, and started coaching alpine skiing conditioning. In 1979, Kopecky took up archery and in 1982 started coaching the sport.

He continues to coach archery in Kimberley and invites anyone interested to come out to the Marysville School every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. beginning October 1, 2012.

“Everybody is welcome. I have lots of bows that I purchased that people can use for a month or so while they decide if they like it.”