Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Fielding Largest-Ever Parapan Am Squad in Hopes of Top-3 Finish

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Fielding Largest-Ever Parapan Am Squad in Hopes of Top-3 Finish

Article excerpt

Canada gunning for top-3 Parapan Am finish


TORONTO - Elisabeth Walker-Young watched from her Vancouver home as Canadian athletes shone in front of a jam-packed crowds at the Pan American Games earlier this month.

Now it's time for her team to do its part.

Canada is gunning for a top-three spot in the medals table at the Parapan Am Games, which open Friday, and like its Canadian Pan Am predecessor, is fielding its biggest team ever -- 216 athletes.

"Seeing their performances, and seeing them wear the red and white with pride, our athletes always build off of that," said Walker-Young. "Watching them and seeing Curt (Harnett, Canada's chef de mission for Pan Ams) lead the team, I don't know how we couldn't come in and be proud."

The four-time Paralympian in swimming is Canada's chef de mission for a Parapan Am squad that is looking to get back to a lofty spot it once occupied among the world's best.

At the Parapan Ams four years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico, Canada finished eighth in gold medals, and fifth in overall medals. Brazil dominated the Games, winning 197 total medals -- 81 gold, 61 silver, and 55 bronze -- and a year out from hosting the Rio Paralympics, will be a force to contend with in Toronto.

The United States won 132 medals (51-47-34) in Mexico, while the host country finished with 165 (50-60-55). Canada brought home 63 medals from Guadalajara -- 13 gold, 22 silver and 28 bronze.

"We used to be leaders in the Paralympic nations, the Canadian Paralympic goal is to become leaders once again in the Paralympic movement," Walker-Young said.

Boccia player Marco Dispaltro will carry Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies Friday at the new athletics stadium at York University.

Walker-Young, who won three gold, a silver and two bronze medals over the course of a career that spanned the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics to the 2004 Athens Games, said her heart rate "went up about a hundred beats per minute," when asked about marching out with the Canadian team.

"Having been an athlete, I remember walking in at opening ceremonies when I was a 15-year-old," she said. "So right now it's excitement, it's a little bit of nerves. …

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