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Karolina Wisniewska was born with mild cerebral palsy that affects the muscle coordination in her legs and her balance. She started alpine skiing at the age of five as a form of physiotherapy and by the age of six, Wisniewska was racing against able-bodied skiers as a member of the Sunshine Ski Club in Banff, Alberta.
She continued to race against able-bodied skiers for many years until, at age 18, she decided to try racing against competitors with a disability. She was named to the Alberta Disabled Alpine Ski Team, swept the National Championships in all disciplines, and was named to the Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team the following season—just missing the opportunity to compete at the Lillehammer Paralympics in 1994.
When Wisniewska began her international racing career, world competition for athletes with a disability was relatively well-established and the Paralympic Games was recognized around the world as the premier international event. She was the first female alpine skier with a disability to receive funding through Sport Canada's Athlete Assistance program.
Over the course of her career she accumulated multiple World Championship titles, World Cup wins, and she became overall World Cup Champion in 2004.
At her first Paralympic Games, the 1998 Paralympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, she won two silver medals, one in super-G and the other in giant slalom.
Four years later, at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, she reached the podium in all four alpine disciplines and became the first Canadian athlete to win four medals in a single Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games.
The Paralympic Games are the end result of a sport competion organized at England’s Stoke Mandeville Rehabilitation Hospital in 1948 for Second World War veterans with a spinal cord-related injury. When a team from Holland participated four years later, this competition grew into an international event and began a movement now known as the Paralympics. The 1960 Paralympic Games in Rome were the first to be held in conjunction with the Olympic Summer Games. The Swedish town of Örnsköldsvik hosted the first Paralympic Winter Games in 1976, at which six Canadian athletes competed.
A few weeks after becoming the overall World Cup Champion in 2004, Karolina sustained a career ending injury. She went on to work at the 2006 Torino Paralympics and with the Department of Canadian Heritage. Both experiences inspired her to come out of retirement and to train to compete in the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver. She is once again a member of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team and competing in the World Cup.
With six Paralympic medals to her name, Karolina Wisniewska represents the finest of Canada's athletes. In 2007, she was honoured for her accomplishments with a place in the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame—the first Paralympian to be so honoured.