I had the chance to see PUSH!, a show put on for Panamania about para-athletes. I also had the priviledge to speak with the Artistic Director, Eliza Chandler who told me more about Tangled and the production of PUSH!.

Tell me more about Tangled:
Tangled hopes is to bring disability art to mainstream for the last 14 years. This show is the beginning of the season for Tangled. Throughout the year, Tangled will tour in Ontario with events and art exhibits include visual, performance and musical production. There will also be a kids festival with artists and performers with disabilities.

What’s the history of “PUSH!”?
PUSH! was commissioned for Panamania. It’s a unique opportunity to showcase remarkable athletes and Tangled is very excited about the show.

What’s been the most exciting aspect of working with Tangled?
We had an exciting exhibit at 401 Richmond which was 13 exhibits and 13 galleries. The majority of the people attending were just seeking a contemporary art exhibit, but were able to find works by artists with disabilities. It was a chance to celebrate the artistic abilities of people with disabilities.

How does Tangled find artists? 
Artists typically find Tangled. We have partnerships with the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Arts Council and other organizations. Tangled is Ontario’s only multi-disciplinary arts organization for people with disabilities. Through our partnerships, artists are often referred to us.

And if speaking with Eliza wasn’t enough, I also had the honour of speaking with multi-medal winner Martha Sandoval-Gustafson. A quick google of her name will tell you that not only has Martha won many medals, but she has competed in more sports than I’ve probably even tried in my life. She said she was not really into sports until she visited a rehabilitation centre in Mexico where she first saw people playing wheelchair basketball.

Her love of sports didn’t stop there, next she learned to swim, which she assumed would take her one year of training to learn and become good at, but she was swimming within one month. She was then introduced to table tennis and track and field sports. She competed for Mexico in parasports from 1975 until 1980 and first represented Canada at the parapan games in Halifax.

She told me about her love of rugby, basketball, and other sports. When I asked her for her favourite, it was tough for her to pick. Throughout her career (so far), she has won gold, silver and bronze medals in Athletics for both shot put and discus and has also competed at an elite level in rugby and swimming. She holds the Canadian F52 record for shot put. She is truly a remarkable woman. I loved hearing her stories of winning (and maybe knocking over a guy or two in basketball, it gets intense).  She also told me about how she’s tried “slower” sports like curling and cricket and is learning to appreciate those as well.

I asked how she first discovered PUSH! as she told me this was the first time she’s done anything like this and she simply saw an advertisement for a call for actors while at the Lyndhurst Rehab Centre in Toronto. I asked her what advice she had for any young athletes looking to compete and she said to try to focus on fewer rather than many sports and to make sure you’re training safely and properly. Good advice!

It was great speaking with both of these women before seeing the show. PUSH! is the stories of para-sports beginning in 1944 England, in what was the first para-olympic type games. The story tells of the struggles and triumphs of 6 athletes who have competed for Canada in a variety of games, including winter and summer sports. It was unbelievably inspiring to listen to their stories, I really believe that parasports are absolutely remarkable, the passion and determination and the competition definitely rivals that of the panam or olympic games.

PUSH! is part of Panamania and only a couple of tickets remain for the show tomorrow and Friday night, if you can make it out I would definitely recommend it! And if you can’t make it to the show (or it sells out), definitely check out some of Tangled’s upcoming program for the season.

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