Ottawa, May 8, 2023 – Paralympic medallists Karolina Wisniewska (Para alpine skiing) and Josh Vander Vies (boccia) will lead Team Canada as co-chefs de mission at the upcoming Santiago 2023 Parapan Am Games and Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced today.
This will mark the first time the chef de mission role is shared by two individuals. Both Wisniewska and Vander Vies have recent Games leadership experience, with Wisniewska serving as assistant chef (alongside chef Josh Dueck) for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games and Vander Vies doing the same role, supporting chef de mission Stephanie Dixon, for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Wisniewska, originally from Calgary but currently living in Montreal, is a three-time Paralympian. She competed in Para alpine skiing at the 1998, 2002, and 2010 Games, winning eight medals – four silver and four bronze. The first Paralympian to be inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame, she is also a member of the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame.
She has remained close to the sport community since ending her competitive career, working in many different roles including public speaker and mentor. She currently is a manager with Game Plan, supporting Canada’s Paralympic and Olympic athletes through the stages of their careers.
“I am so excited to be one of two co-chefs for the team that will proudly represent Canada at the Santiago Parapan Ams this fall and the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris next year!” said Wisniewska. “I will do everything I can to support and propel our amazing athletes, coaches, and team to incredible performances and positive experiences. I also want all Canadians to see and feel the unique power of Paralympic sport.”
Two-time Paralympian Vander Vies, who lives in Vancouver and grew up in Sarnia, Ont., was one of the country’s best boccia players for many years and represented Canada at the 2004 and 2012 Games. He captured a bronze medal in BC4 pairs, alongside pairs teammate Marco Dispaltro, at London 2012. They were the first Canadians in their boccia classification to podium at the Paralympic Games.
Now a lawyer practicing in British Columbia, he has held many athlete leader roles throughout his career. He is a former chair of the Canadian Paralympic Athletes’ Council, past president of AthletesCAN, and has sat on various national and international committees.
“It’s exhilarating to have such a meaningful chance to help lead Team Canada,” said Vander Vies. “I’m committed to do my part and build an environment of sport pride, Canadian pride, and disability pride. Our incredible athletes, coaches, and team members deserve that and more as they claim their place in Santiago, in Paris, and on the world stage.”
As co-chefs de mission, Wisniewska and Vander Vies – who are both fluent in English and French – will provide their valuable expertise as part of the CPC’s leadership team for both Games, helping to create a supportive team atmosphere for all athletes, coaches, and staff. They will provide support and guidance to athletes, be the team’s biggest cheerleaders, and also act as spokespeople for the Canadian Parapan Am Team and Canadian Paralympic Team to help showcase the power of sport and the performances of Canada’s Paralympians.
“We are so thrilled to welcome Karolina and Josh to the team as co-chefs de mission for Santiago and Paris,” said Karen O’Neill, CEO, Canadian Paralympic Committee. “After working with them as assistant chefs for Tokyo and Beijing, it was clear they would be superb choices to lead the team together into these next Games. They both are accomplished, well-respected leaders in their communities with strong values and vast experiences, perspectives, and knowledge from their different roles in sport.
“We know they will contribute significantly to a positive, successful environment for the entire Canadian team for the next Parapan Am and Paralympic Games, and we are so looking forward to the work ahead together over the next 16 months.”
The Santiago 2023 Parapan Am Games will take place November 17-26 later this year in Chile, while the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games runs August 28 to September 8, 2024.
Photo credit: CPC