The Catholic University of America

March 4, 2010

CUA Professor to Carry the Torch for Paralympics


Lezsek Sibilski
Adjunct Professor of Sociology

Dressed in a running uniform and red mittens — which, according to the committee hosting the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, are “a childhood symbol of winter and warmth, and part of our Canadian Heritage”— Lezsek Sibilski, adjunct professor of sociology, will carry the Paralympic torch in Vancouver on Thursday, March 11. The Paralympic flame will be lit in Ottawa before traveling across Canada for 10 days until it reaches Vancouver.

“This honor of being a part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Torch Relay is a huge personal reaffirmation that my work in the disability field has been recognized by the global community working on behalf of athletes with disabilities,” Sibilski says. “Also, this is a huge opportunity for me to re-energize my passion and devotion to the cause, so I am able to continue passing the spirit of this flame and inspiration of the Paralympic games to my students at Catholic University.”

Sibilski, a former member of Poland’s Olympic cycling team, came to the United States in the 1990s to cover the New York Marathon for a Polish news agency. After spending his career as an athlete surrounded by “perfect” able-bodied athletes, Sibilski was struck by how athletes with disabilities were encouraged to participate in the marathon. When he returned to Poland, he began working with athletes with disabilities, eventually coming to the United States to do research on sports and inclusion of those with disabilities.

Now, as a member of the education committee of the International Paralympic Committee, Sibilski has made it his mission to educate people so that they might appreciate the many abilities of people and not focus only on what people are not able to do.

Sibilski has been at Catholic University for five years, teaching classes on the sociology of sport and global disabilities policies. He has included paralympic athletes as themes in both classes.

“I’ve noticed our students are very eager to learn about the Paralympic movement,” he says. “Many teachings of the Catholic Church tie in with the themes taught by the Paralympic Committee — social inclusion, physical activity and serving underprivileged people.”

Vancouver is the site of Sibilski’s fifth Paralympic Games. The winter Paralympic Games include alpine and cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling.