Volunteer brings home Paralympic inspiration
“Seeing her come down filled me with so much emotion I couldn’t breathe… I was so proud and overwhelmed that my little girl was out there in the world doing what she loved,” said Rachael Chubb-Higgins, mother of Canadian Paralympic athlete Mel Pemble. “The tears of joy were unstoppable and it was the same magical feeling every single run.”
Sun Peaks resident Chubb-Higgins travelled to Pyeongchang, South Korea in March to support her 17-year-old daughter as she competed in the standing slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill competitions at the 2018 Paralympic Games.
She explained Pemble was the youngest competitor on both the Canadian Alpine Team and the World Circuit and was able to keep calm and ski consistently throughout the competitions.
“I never imagined when she began skiing and racing that this is where we would be today. All I do know is that when Mel puts her mind to something that she wants, she is tenacious and focused,” she said.
Not having been a “sporty” family prior to getting involved in skiing in 2010, Chubb-Higgins credited her daughter for sparking her own ski career.
“Thanks to Mel I am now a ski instructor who enjoys 8 a.m. training every morning at Sun Peaks with the best ski instructors in Canada. It’s amazing to be on Sun Peaks’ mountain early in the morning with its magnificent views, learning and training the latest in ski teaching,” she said.
Chubb-Higgins has been a consistent volunteer with Adaptive Sports Sun Speaks (ASSP) and said experiencing the Paralympic Games has solidly confirmed she is on the right path and credited former ASSP president Pat Mckinnon to opening the door to her volunteer career.
“Now because I have been to the Paralympics with Mel it’s clear that my goal as a volunteer is to give opportunities to students in the same way that the one opportunity was given to Mel back in 2011. Whatever the dream is, we open the door and show them the possibility,” she said. “It’s such a rewarding vocation and Pat Mckinnon opened the door for me. My ambition with ASSP is to help reintroduce the adaptive race program with my co-instructor John Sharun at Sun Peaks, a goal they are wholeheartedly supportive of.”
Chubb-Higgins saw every one of Pemble’s runs, only giving her one piece of motherly advice, to have fun.
“After every run, I would run down to greet her before she went down to the team. I was able to give her a tremendous hug, a truly special mummy moment,” she said.
She kept busy throughout the Games waking up at 5:30 a.m. each day to be ready to load the bus with all the other athlete’s parents heading to the ski hill at 7:15 a.m.
“The hour before (the race) is a crazy build up with famous Korean singers and dance crews getting the crowd going. It’s non stop cheering and shouting jumping up and down waving a six foot flag and ringing my cowbell… I’m exhausted… I jokingly said to Mel’s ski coach I haven’t had four years training for this,” she said.
In total Team Canada earned 10 alpine medals. Chubb-Higgins said she’s never been so proud to be part of something so big.
Pemble’s Paralympic debut was successful, finishing in the top 15 in the majority of her competitions, with two top 10 finishes: ninth in both downhill and super combined.
Reflecting on her experience as a parent supporting their child through their Olympic dream Chubb-Higgins said her favourite part of being in South Korea was watching Pemble race alongside the top athletes in the world.
However, she said she is looking forward to returning home to Sun Peaks to finish the ski season thanked ASSP for their support.