Sport has always been a part of my life. Growing up in Ontario in the 60’s and 70’s, we played sport all the time, both structured and unstructured. Summer nights had games of street hockey, four-square, blubber-ball’ and hide’n seek; winters consisted of skiing, tobogganing and snow tag (still my favourite!).
As a young mother, I wanted my own children to be involved in sport as well. By the time my two young ones were old enough to get involved, things were changing and structured sport was more the norm.
People involve themselves or their children in sport for multiple reasons, whether to socialize, stay fit, and be active or as for my children, to foster independence and responsibility. Most people understand that sport provides a forum to develop skills and fine tune tactics on the playing field.
In my case, much of my skill development and tactical fine-tuning in sport has been learned off the playing field, in the national and international board rooms and offices where very few women, if any, had ever been.
Sport is a microcosm of society and in it we find many layers of beliefs, politics and power struggles; this is the competition off the playing field. This is the unseen, mostly uncelebrated competition, the part of the game, most know little about. And this is where I find myself always alone. This is where, more often than not, I am the only woman.
I learned of this world of sport in the mid-90’s, in the days before the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) when my then 14 year old daughter, Jeane Lassen, was involved in a court case revolving around her participation at an international event. Soon after this precedent setting case, I became completely entrenched in the administrative, officiating and governance aspect of Olympic Weightlifting.
For many years I spent my working day at Sport Yukon administrating grass roots and high performance multi-sport and in the evenings and weekends focused my attention to my passion of Weightlifting. Through some pretty tumultuous times in sport, as in life, I have learned to accept and appreciate hard work, commitment, dedication and being alone.
In 2013, I became the first woman ever elected to the (IWF) the International Weightlifting Federation Executive Board. On the morning of the election I made the conscious effort of detaching myself from the outcome. I remember as I was walked down the corridor toward the Electoral Congress conference room the distinct feeling of someone pushing me forward, pushing me forward into a fire. The pressure of the pushing was gentle but firm and the fire did not hurt and it was not scary; it just was. I believe this is similar to athletes being in the zone and just like an athlete, I had prepared to win. I had completed years of training to get there. I knew the game I was walking into. No matter the outcome of the election, no one could take any of it away from me. I had already won just by being able to compete at that level. And as it turned out, my seat at the table was confirmed.
Over the last number of years, I have tried to actively use my role with the IWF Executive Board to support the development of our sport across the world. I lived in London prior to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and then made a move across the UK to Glasgow to work on the team that brought the 2014 Commonwealth Games to life. And now I’m living in Samoa as the Games Planning & Delivery Advisor in advance of at the Samoa 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games here in September 2015.
The multi-sport game environment is a unique and interesting dynamic consisting mostly of individuals living a slightly nomadic lifestyle – commonly referred to as ‘Games Chasers’. There are so many people working on different projects all at once in an open concept setting and it’s loud and it’s distracting and there is drama and people jockeying for position every day. But somehow all those individuals come together, in what feels like just moments before the Opening Ceremony, to make it happen – for the athletes, the spectators, the love of sport and its ability to build bridges between people.
What have I learned from this winding sport adventure? I have learned how to appreciate and accept human feelings. The feelings that come with sport are extremely fascinating. They can be unpleasant and not particularly fun sometimes. At other times, they can be so amazing they leave you awestruck and speechless.
Sport enables us to connect to other people all over the world - we may not speak the same mother tongue and we may differ significantly in cultural, political and societal beliefs but we can still make a profound connection. We connect because of the language of our sport; we connect because of the feelings associated with our sport. It is the feelings that make me feel less alone.
Sport is about being human, with all its beauty and its foibles. Sport is life.
For competition purposes, athletes are classified according to their disability into one of four classifications:
Players in this class throw the ball with the hand or foot. They may compete with an assistant who stays outside of the competitor’s playing box, to stabilize or adjust their playing chair and give the ball to the player when requested.
Players in this class throw the ball with the hand. They are not eligible for assistance.
Players in this class have very severe locomotor dysfunction in all four extremities. Players in this class have no sustained grasp or release action and although they may have arm movement, they have insufficient range of movement to propel a Boccia ball onto the court. They may use an assistive device such as a ramp to deliver the ball. They may compete with an assistant; assistants must keep their back to the court and their eyes averted from play.
Players in this class have severe locomotor dysfunction of all four extremities as well as poor trunk control. They can demonstrate sufficient dexterity to throw the ball onto the court. Players are not eligible for assistance.
BISFed Classification Contact Information
If you have any questions contact Elsa Matthee:
Tel: +27 82 7813709