Tracy Schmitt’s limitless take on life has earned her a fitting nickname. Having travelled the world as an aspiring Paralympian and humanitarian, she is now known by many as Unstoppable Tracy.
Schmitt (BRLS ’95) returned to Brock Dec. 6 to share her life experiences with the Dean’s honour roll recipients as part of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences 2017 Celebration of Outstanding Achievements.
“When I do motivational presentations, I tell people I’m delivering the ‘Lim[b]itless Secret,’” laughs Schmitt. “I was born a four-way amputee and my mantra is, if I can do it, you can do it. No excuses!”
Among her accomplishments, Unstoppable Tracy has climbed mountains in Nepal, captained an 110-foot-tall ship in the Eastern Atlantic and won a bronze medal in alpine para-skiing at the Ontario ParaSport Games.
“We invited Tracy to speak with our honour students because of her unique and extraordinary experiences,” said Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Dean Peter Tiidus. “She has overcome challenges with perseverance and optimism. Her energy, personal story and thoughtful remarks have inspired many. We are fortunate to count her among our alumni family.”
During her visit, Schmitt spoke to students, parents and community guests about her accomplishments, key defining moments and the philosophies which guide her life.
“I believe the universe sets you up for success,” Schmitt shared. “As a student, I could have never imagined how great my life was going to be, but by taking risks and being positive, I’ve blasted barriers and obstacles.”
Life hasn’t always been easy for Schmitt. At one point, she hit a rough patch, having been laid off from her job in Toronto. But as a Recreation and Leisure Studies grad, she drew on the transformative powers of sport and physical activity.
“It didn’t take me long to realize this was an opportunity to embrace what would make me happy,” she said. “Less than 24 hours after losing my job, I was in San Diego practising for a regatta in a borrowed boat I had never sailed before, faking it like I was supposed to be there.”
After winning first place, she realized she needed to find a coach who could help her prepare for the Paralympic tryouts.
“Brock really helped me to lay the foundation of self-discovery. I encourage all students to embrace the possible,” Schmitt said. “When I decided I wanted to become a Paralympic athlete, a lot of people said to me I needed to be realistic, but I knew this was something I had to do.”
To accomplish this goal, Schmitt packed what she could into her car and moved to Florida to work unpaid for three months for a gold medalist Olympic sailor and coach.
“People thought I was crazy, but once I proved that I knew sailing and was willing to do the grunt work, my formal training began and I entered a number of able-bodied world cup regattas to help me prepare for the Paralympic tryouts.”
Schmitt continues to pursue her dreams to participate in the Paralympics and said each of her experiences along the way has led to a new opportunity.
She concluded her presentation by emphasizing that success is about leveraging relationships and making sure that everyone has a lifeline in times of need.
“Independence, is not about doing it alone,” says Schmitt. “When I’m out there and feeling all alone, I remember that someone has my back.”