Paralympic medallists Karolina Wisniewska and Josh Vander Vies will lead Team Canada as co-chefs de mission at the upcoming 2023 Parapan Am Games and 2024 Paralympic Games, the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced Monday.
Wisniewska, a former Para alpine skier, and Vander Vies, a former boccia player, are the first to share the chef de mission role.
The 2023 Parapan Am Games take place Nov. 17-26 in Santiago, Chile, while the Paris Paralympics run Aug. 28 to Sept. 8 next year.
Along with their plethora of experience as athletes, the accomplished Paralympians also bring recent Games leadership experience to the role. Wisniewska served as assistant chef for the Beijing Winter Paralympics last year, while Vander Vies served as assistant chef for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympics.
Wisniewska, who grew up in Calgary and lives in Montreal, competed at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 Paralympics, winning eight medals (four silver, four bronze). She is a member of the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame and was the first Paralympian to be inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame.
The 46-year-old has remained close to the sport community since retiring from competition and has worked as a public speaker and mentor. She currently serves as a manager with the Game Plan organization, supporting Canadian Paralympic and Olympic athletes through the different 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!" Wisniewska said in a release.
"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."
Vander Vies, a two-time Paralympian, shone for years as one of Canada's top boccia players before retiring in 2015 after an 11-year career. The 38-year-old won pairs bronze at the 2012 Paralympics in London alongside Marco Dispaltro, becoming the first Canadians in the BC4 classification to reach the boccia podium at the Games.
Vander Vies made his Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004.
'Sport pride, Canadian pride, and disability pride'
A Sarnia, Ont., native now living in Vancouver, Vander Vies has held many notable leadership roles and is now a practising lawyer. He is a former chair of the Canadian Paralympic Athletes' Council and former president of AthletesCAN, while also sitting on various national and international committees.
"It's exhilarating to have such a meaningful chance to help lead Team Canada," Vander Vies said. "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."
WATCH | Canadian Paralympians look ahead to Paris 2024:
Wisniewska and Vander Vies, who are both fluent in English and French, will use their expertise to help create a supportive team atmosphere for all athletes, coaches and staff as part of the CPC's leadership team. They will provide support and guidance to the athletes, while also acting 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 of the CPC. "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."