March 5, 2009: A different definition of ability

      Thursday, March 5, 2009
      Contact: Shelley Kean
      Tel: 604.983.7596

      (NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.)—Thirty-two-year-old Rob Gosse started his second life at GF Strong in 2006 after becoming a paraplegic in a motor vehicle accident. Now, at age 35, his journey has come full circle as he returns to GF Strong to complete a final practicum requirement in Capilano University's Rehabilitation Assistant diploma program. The single father of two is also a sit-skier and will be the forerunner for the national team at Whistler's World Cup on March 13.

      Only six months after his life-altering injury, Rob picked up the new sport and has since accomplished more than he could ever imagine. He was named to B.C.’s Disabled Development Team for 2007-08, and by the end of the season he had collected two silver medals and a bronze. Today, he races with the B.C. Disabled Ski Team for which he’s collected two gold medals this season, and works as a volunteer with a number of organizations. When he’s not busy with his sport, Rob is either spending time with his five-year-old son, Riley, and his three-year-old daughter, Jorri, or he’s hitting the books.

      Rob is graduating in May from Cap’s Rehab Assistant program. What makes both his career path and his athletic pursuits so unique is the fact that he attends school in a wheelchair and skis the slopes in a monoski. In fact, Rob is probably the only student in a wheelchair to ever graduate from a rehabilitation assistant program in British Columbia – maybe even the only one in Canada.

      B.C.’s public school system has three rehabilitation assistant programs to choose from.

      “One of the other institutions wasn’t receptive to having me,” Rob said, adding, “They weren’t sure that I could do the physical component of the course.”

      Not easily discouraged, he came to Cap where he found a warmer reception.

      “Program instructors, Diane Koch and Tracy Dignum, met with me to see what my abilities were,” he said, “and then they accepted me into the program.”

      He knew and they knew that it wouldn’t be an easy path, as the program involves a lot of physical activity.

      “When Rob came to meet with us, we had to think out of the box, because rehab assistants have to do lifts and transfers,” Diane said. “I thought, ‘What if Rob could develop the communication skills to tell someone else how to move a client?’ I also wondered how we could adapt the program to someone like Rob without compromising our high standards and still have him meet the competencies within our program.”

      Both Diane and Tracy knew within minutes of meeting Rob that he had the verbal skills to meet the requirements, and they also recognized immediately that they had a very special individual before them.

      “He never misses a class other than when he’s competing, and even then he gives us lot of notice,” Diane said. “He’s always smiling, and he’s always engaging with other students. Plus, he’s a real advocate for people with disabilities. I have the highest admiration for him.”

      Rob tends to be a role model for others in many aspects of his life.

      “I’m not going to make my career an exception to that, however I really couldn’t have done it without the help of my classmates,” he said. “They gave me moral support and helped me overcome many issues, such as making adaptations to the practical exams.

      “However, as much as they helped me and my situation, I have helped them become more aware of how to work with people with disabilities.”

      All of this hasn’t come easy. A typical day sees Rob rising at a time when many others are just hitting the sack. He gets up at 3 a.m. so that he can be at the gym by 4. He works with a personal trainer until about 5:30 and heads home to clean up before joining the morning rush hour. His trip from his home in Langley to Capilano’s North Vancouver campus is about an hour and a half. His classes often run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., after which it’s back onto the brutal Highway 1 where he heads home to play with his kids, eat and study.“I usually do my ski training on Thursday nights at Grouse Mountain, and I’m at Whistler every second weekend,” he said. “Plus, I’m in competitions all over the province.”

      Where the term disabled came from it’s hard to say, but it definitely does not apply to Rob. Talking to him, it’s hard to imagine anyone with more abilities. He said his mentors were his parents, as well as his good friend, Andrea.

      When asked what makes him amazing, he answered, “probably the people around me – my classmates, my instructors, my friends, my family, my kids, not to mention all the medical help, my amazing occupational therapist, and all the rehab services available to me.”

      Growing up in Surrey, B.C., Rob had been involved in provincial gymnastics and had a lot of athletic ability.

      “I was always told by my coaches that there was definitely Olympic potential there,” he said.

      He also did some skiing in Golden at White Tooth (now Kicking Horse), but abandoned the sport when it became too expensive. However, after his accident, he discovered Whistler’s Adaptive Sports program.

      “It made skiing affordable for me, and achievable,” he said.

      With graduation just around the corner in May, Rob said he’s excited, but at the same time “kind of sad that the program’s ending.

      “As a class, we’ve developed a relationship with one another and we’re all going to be going our separate ways. But it’s a new chapter that’s beginning, and we all carry the resources with us. Plus, given the opportunity or circumstance, I know I could call on any one of my colleagues and ask for their opinion.”

      He also spoke highly of his instructors, saying that he could go to them with any problem.

      “All the instructors were very willing, accepting and helpful of any issues that came up throughout the program,” he said. “It takes a team of people to make the program what it is, and that really carries through to the medical field where we’re dealing with teams on a daily basis.”

      His future aspirations include a myriad of opportunities. He’s already done a practicum in physio therapy, having no problems at all. He sailed through his second practicum in occupational therapy, and he’s about to start his third practicum – this one at GF Strong, again in physio therapy.

      “Speech therapy is one of the fields that frequently gets left behind because there’s no mandate for it,” Rob explained. “But quite honestly, that’s where I’m focusing my attention, as I can see a big hole in that area.”

      In terms of his other passion, Rob made the provincial sit-ski team a little too late to try out for the national team and compete in the 2010 Paralympics, but the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia is definitely in his horizon. This goal became a little closer when he was named to the forerunner position for the national team at Whistler’s World Cup event.

      “These are the best racers in the world,” he said, excitedly. “It’s going to give me a great perspective as to who I would potentially be up against in Russia.”

      Let the racers of 2014 be forewarned. Rob Gosse is on his way.

      For more information on Capilano University’s Rehabilitation Assistant diploma program, visit