Meet Kathleen Woo and Nicole Flynn, young athletes with “abilities”
妮可•弗林（Nicole Flynn，左）和胡淑华（Kathleen Woo，右）。胡和弗林都是Variety Village健身中心的会员。摄影：埃里克-爱民-伍德（Eric Emin Wood）
Kathleen Woo, 20, is a competitive lane swimmer and holds a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do. Nicole Flynn, 18, is an accomplished musician, published poet, synchronized swimmer and currently acting in a community theatre production of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
They’re also both amateur photographers. And they happen to have Down’s syndrome.
Named for the British physician who first described it in 1866, Down’s syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome (people normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes). It’s associated with a particular set of facial characteristics, cognitive impairment and physical challenges, including potential heart defects – which for many people would mean they can’t participate in sports.
But don’t say that to Flynn.
“There is no such word as ‘can’t,’” says Flynn. “The word is ‘I can.’”
Whenever she meets a challenge, Flynn breaks it into steps. “It builds up your strength and you can reach your goal,” she says.
Flynn began competing in synchronized swimming when she was eight years old, and is now entering her eleventh season. She performs duets with team members who have disabilities, and solo routines against so-called “able-bodied” 16-to-20-year-old athletes.
“I don’t want to go against someone with a disability because I don’t need extra support,” she says.
In May’s 2011 Ontario Age Group Championships, Flynn competed in the solo 16-to-20 category and placed sixth.
This past summer, she competed in a “try-a-tri” triathlon, which involved a 375-metre swim, a 10-kilometre bicycle ride, and a 2.5-kilometre run. Next summer, Flynn will compete in a “sprint” triathlon with a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bicycle ride, and five-kilometre run.
She’s an actress too, currently performing in a community theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Flynn plays Dinah, the lone daughter of Jacob, the protagonist Joseph’s father. She auditioned for the company three times, at 16, 17 and 18, before landing a role.
“Her dad and I both went the director and said, ‘we’re very grateful that you gave Nicole a role,’” Flynn’s mother, Kathy Primrose, tells Chinese News. “And he said – ” she adopts an arch theatrical tone – “‘Nicole *earned* the role. I did not just *give* her the role.”
As a poet, Flynn writes every day. Chinese News is printing one of her poems on page 14. “I like stuff about human rights,” she says.
As a musician, she plays violin using the Suzuki method. “It took her 10 years, but she did her grade one Royal Conservatory exam, and got first-class honours,” says Primrose. Flynn also plays guitar and piano, and has set her poetry to music.
在弗林接受函授教育时，胡淑华正在士嘉堡的Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School中学上学，并且即将毕业。她的课程与其他所有学生一样，并且还有一个助教帮助她。
While Flynn takes correspondence courses, Woo attends Scarborough’s Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, where she’s in her final year. Her classes are the same as any other student’s, with an educational assistant helping her.
Woo began studying tae kwon do when she was nine years old. She’s more reserved than Flynn, and happy to let her mother, Marilyn Jang, speak for her.
“Something happened to my son and I was thinking about self-defense for him, and we looked at it and it suited the whole family,” Jang says.
Woo joined a class for special needs students, and was “unbalanced” at first, her mother says. “Her running was a little wobbly, and we didn’t think that she could actually kick.”
But the instructors were prepared. “They broke down all the steps, and when we got to higher levels everything that was tested for an able-bodied adult or youth or child was expected from them,” Jang says. “It was eye-opening for others in the tae kwon do community to see what they could do.”
To receive her black belt, Woo had to memorize over 320 moves and four board breaks. She earned the title after five years of study, in 2005.
Since then, she’s volunteered to teach other special needs students tae kwon do.
“She’s not very loud or aggressive,” Jang says. “There she is with a black belt, helping them along, and they just have this respect for her.”
Currently on sabattical from tae kwon do, Woo’s also a competitive lane swimmer with the Sunshine Swim Team at Variety Village, the fitness centre she and Flynn are both registered with. She plans on competing in the Special Olympics.
Flynn and Woo love photography. Flynn specializes in nature. Woo likes taking photos of “dogs, nature... sports,” she says, but especially people.
Jang shows Chinese News some of her daughter’s photos. “They’re not the sort of poses where the person is tense. They’re... natural, full of smiles,” she says. “I think because she has a very quiet, unassuming personality, they kind of open up.”
Right now Woo’s portraits are of family, friends, teammates and classmates, but it’s easy to imagine her bringing out the best in more prominent subjects. She’s applied for next September’s photography programs at both Durham and Humber College.
Jang uses the word “ability,” rather than “disability,” when describing her daughter’s condition.
“The Chinese community has a lot of stigma about abilities,” she says. “They see limitations, stereotypes and a lot of fear. And I think it’s always fear of the unknown.”
When friends and relatives meet her daughter, Jang says, “it takes the fear away, and opens up their hearts and minds as well.”
Neither Woo nor Flynn shy away from their abilities.
“We can’t be the same thing,” Flynn says. “We can be different.”
“And we celebrate our differences,” Flynn’s mother, Primrose, says. “Everybody’s different.”
I Am Not Invisible
By Nicole Flynn
People talk to me as if I am a child
I am an adult,
Look at my eyes and talk to me as an adult.
People treat me as if my feelings don’t matter
I feel things,
I hurt inside when things happen.
People won’t even let me try
I want the chance to try,
I might make mistakes; I will keep trying.
People do not see me; they treat me like I am invisible
I am here,
I want people to look at me.
People tell me what to do all the time
I can make decisions,
I am able to think for myself.
People treat me like I’m a non-person
I am a human being,
I am not a mistake.
编注：英翻中：李静。Translator (English to Chinese): Li Jing. 如果你对本文有任何评论，请到096.ca的“特别报道”栏目下、此文的论坛里发表评论。如果你有任何社区、社会和生活问题需要大中报回答或调查，请将你的评论或问题细节以电话留言（416-504-0761 转215分机），或传真（416-504-4928），或电邮（firstname.lastname@example.org），或电邮给Eric Emin Wood(email@example.com）。你可以匿名为本报提供调查线索，但调查线索应包括当事人的联系电话或地址、发生问题的时间及地址等信息。
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