The clock is ticking 

Paralympic Games countdown to two-year marker celebrates achievement by Canadians with disabilities

click to enlarge Leading Man Musician Justin Hines is slated to perform at upcoming Paralympic countdown celebrations.
  • Leading Man Musician Justin Hines is slated to perform at upcoming Paralympic countdown celebrations.

What: Two-year countdown to Paralympics

Where: Whistler Public Library

When: Wednesday, March 12

While the fanfare from the two-year marker for the Olympic Games is just dying down, organizers at VANOC are starting to gear up for a whole new round of celebrations.

Wednesday marks the two-year countdown to the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympic Games, which will be held in Vancouver and Whistler from March 12 to 21, 2010 and include an estimated 600 athletes competing in four sports, with over 50 medal events.

Whistler will host 62 of the 64 medal events for the Paralympic Winter Games, as well as the closing ceremony, which makes the two-year countdown a particularly exciting milestone for the community.

Festivities are being planned in both Vancouver and Whistler to unite the communities and to showcase and recognize the achievements of Canadians with disabilities within the realm of athletics and in other areas of life.

Justin Hines, who will perform at the upcoming celebrations, certainly fits the bill. The 25-year-old singer songwriter from Newmarket, Ontario, has Larsen Syndrome.

“It’s a pretty rare genetic disorder, and basically my joints dislocate regularly, which sounds pretty painful, but it’s actually not that bad,” explains Hines. “But it does keep me in a chair.”

But Hines doesn’t let his disability keep him from enjoying his long-standing passion for performing.

“To be honest, I don’t really remember doing anything else,” says Hines, “…Apparently even as a toddler I was singing and whatnot, so I think the passion and the drive was there pretty early.”

Hines says he is honoured to participate in the two-year countdown events, and hopes he can motivate others with his music in the same way Paralympians inspire with their athletic accomplishments.

“I think people that participate are really embodying the spirit of accomplishing things even with adversity,” says Hines. “I look at my own situation as almost a blessing, in a way, because I’m able to get people’s attention and hopefully inspire them just by doing what I do, so it’s quite an honour to be in that role.”

This certainly isn’t Hines’s first live gig — when he was just 14 years old, he won a radio contest to sing the national anthem at a Toronto Raptors game. His first performance was in front of 17,000 people.

He also recently toured across Canada, Dubai and the United Kingdom. He released his debut album, Sides, back in August, which, aside from one cover song, contains all original work and soothing songs like, Wish You Well, and Never After.

With a classic, somewhat timeless style, Hines’s soulful voice, accompanied by acoustics, is often compared with musicians from the folk roots genre, like James Taylor and Cat Stevens. It’s no surprise that they are among the many influences Hines cites, but he also draws inspiration from many contemporary artists.

“In terms of modern day guys, I really like Ron Sexsmith and Amos Lee and people that are still keeping the tradition of songwriting alive,” Hines explains.

Accompanied by a guitarist and bass player, Hines is set to take the Whistler stage for two half-hour sets, designed to entertain and inspire.

Whistler’s countdown event will take place at the new Whistler Public Library from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 12, complete with music, refreshments and a ceremonial cake cutting at 5:30 p.m. Local athletes and the Vancouver 2010 mascots — Sumi, Quatchi and Miga — will also join in the celebrations.

VANOC will also release the 2010 Paralympic competition schedule and a new Vancouver 2010 video showcasing the Paralympic Winter Games at Wednesday’s events.

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