Christine Robbins shares inspiring message of faith from Rio Paralympics
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
Photo: Christine Robbins meets some Grade 6 students at St. James elementary school Feb. 15. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)
Christine Robbins’ wasn’t letting anything get in the way of her lifelong dream of being an Olympian. Not long days of work, nor doubts about her abilities ... not even blindness.
Robbins told a young audience of students in Abbotsford that ultimately it was knowing God was in control of everything that helped her make Team Canada as a Paralympic triathlete in Rio de Janeiro last year.
Robbins, who is legally blind, shared her message of inspiration and faith at St. James and St. Ann’s Elementary School Feb. 15. Although she can see a little, she relies on the help of guides as she swims, runs, and cycles on a tandem bicycle.
“Four years ago, I was invited to try out for the national Paralympic triathlon team,” she told the students. “When I was little, I always wanted to be an Olympian, so I jumped at that opportunity.”
Robbins trained 15 to 20 hours a week, getting up at 5 a.m. to swim before work and then biking or running after work until 8 p.m.
“It was a lot of long, hard days. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, especially swimming. I’ve always struggled with swimming.”
Robbins went to a sports psychologist, who gave her tips on relaxation and focusing on swimming through breathing techniques and concentrating on a happy event.
“I tried, but none of (the memories) were really working, until I thought of this moment I had in church one day,” she recalled.
“I was walking to church to set up the altar for Mass and all of a sudden I had a huge feeling of love and peace, the kind of peace that only God can give.”
From that moment on, “I knew where I belonged and I knew God was taking care of me.”
Those positive memories stuck with the Paralympic athlete up to the day of her race in Rio.
Since it was the debut of triathlon at the Paralympic Games, media were swarming around the athletes. On top of that, Robbins was nervous about swimming in the ocean and navigating its waves.
Once she got into the race, she found the ocean calm and she was able to pray and feel at peace.
“I never feel that way, so I knew it was God allowing me to relax and enjoy this incredible moment. It was amazing,” she said.
“Nothing is impossible with God. God was there and he’s the one who got me to the finish line.”
The students who heard her story thought it was amazing, too.
“She can’t see that well and still she can do all these amazing things,” said Jacob, a Grade 6 student. “People usually think of what they can’t do, not what they can do.”
His classmate, Esther, said she was impressed a blind athlete could compete in a triathlon. “I thought it was very cool because if you’re on a bicycle, it would be very hard to keep balance, and swimming – you have to know where you’re going,” she said. “It’s amazing what people can do when they have a disability.”
Esther added prayer is a big part of sports at her school. “We usually pray before we do our sports, and it’s up to God if we win or lose. Win or lose, we praise him.”