Canada baggage 21 medals in essentially the most distinctive Paralympic Video games in historical past – Nationwide |

2021-09-05 21:39:23

The cauldron was extinguished Sunday in Tokyo to finish essentially the most distinctive Paralympic Video games in historical past — and crossing the end line on a Video games fraught with uncertainty was a serious victory in itself.

Led by swimmer Aurelie Rivard and wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos, Canada captured 21 medals, together with 5 gold, in Tokyo, eight lower than the Canadian staff gained 5 years in the past in Rio.

However with Canada’s cautious method to the COVID-19 pandemic that made coaching troublesome, and competing almost unimaginable, over the previous year-and-a-half, Canada didn’t set a medal aim in Tokyo. A shared sentiment amongst athletes was an awesome appreciation for with the ability to compete in any respect.

“I’m so lucky that the nation of Japan determined to undergo with every thing,” mentioned middle-distance runner Nate Riech, who gained gold within the 1,500 metres in his Paralympic debut, Canada’s closing medal in Tokyo. “You by no means know in the event you’re going to be as match or injury-free in three years time (for the Paris Paralympics), your subsequent alternative.”

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Learn extra:
Canada now has 4 medals on the Tokyo Paralympics as 2 athletes rating silver

Lakatos, a 41-year-old from Dorval, Que., carried Canada’s flag into the closing ceremony dressed within the Canadian staff denim jacket and white denims. Lakatos raced to 4 silver medals in his six races, capping his gruelling schedule with a fourth-place end within the marathon simply hours earlier than arriving on the closing festivities.

Rivard, a 25-year-old from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., gained 5 medals, together with two gold regardless of the very fact the Video games marked her first time competing for the reason that pandemic started. Pandemic protocols prevented her from even racing in opposition to teammates in follow.

“Athletes have fought so laborious to be right here. They’ve needed to adapt. We’ve had athletes create coaching environments of their properties. It’s been a tough, laborious yr,” mentioned Stephanie Dixon, Canada’s chef de mission in Tokyo, and a 19-time Paralympic medallist.

“Medals are nice, however that isn’t the most effective measure of success for these Video games.”

Greater than 4,500 athletes from 162 international locations competed within the greatest Paralympics in historical past, a outstanding feat contemplating the immense challenges created by the pandemic. A collective concern amid Paralympians was {that a} COVID-19 outbreak on the Olympics a month earlier would cancel the Paralympics utterly.

“We’re all pinching ourselves somewhat bit,” Dixon mentioned. “Tokyo 2020 has accomplished an unimaginable job to create a secure surroundings for our athletes, in addition to an surroundings the place they might carry out to the most effective of their potential.

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“I’m simply very impressed on the stage of execution for these Video games, contemplating what we’re experiencing globally, and what’s taking place even in Japan, I felt like we had been bubble-wrapped.”

Almost eight years to the day that Tokyo was awarded the Olympics and Paralympics, each Video games had been held throughout a state of emergency amid surging COVID-19 instances in Japan. Occasions had been held in arenas void of followers.

“What extra can I say than ‘Arigato Tokyo,”’ mentioned Andrew Parsons, president of the Worldwide Paralympic Committee. “Collectively in opposition to the chances, we did it. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Video games haven’t simply been historic, they’ve been improbable.

Click to play video: 'Tokyo Paralympics kicks off with fireworks display at opening ceremony'

Tokyo Paralympics kicks off with fireworks show at opening ceremony

Tokyo Paralympics kicks off with fireworks show at opening ceremony – Aug 24, 2021

“In 12 magical days, athletes gave the world confidence, happiness and hope. Athletes broke data, athlete gained hearts, athletes opened minds, importantly athletes modified lives.”

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Canada, lengthy a front-runner within the Paralympic motion, didn’t win a medal in a staff sport in Tokyo. The ladies’s sitting volleyball got here the closest, ending a best-ever fourth. Rivard and Lakatos will each take time to resolve whether or not to proceed competing by way of the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

However Karen O’Neill, the CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, believes the staff’s future is shiny. Some 55 athletes in Tokyo had been making their Paralympic debut, together with Riech. Swimmer Danielle Dorris, who gained two medals together with a gold, is simply 18 years outdated.

“We went to nice efforts to say we weren’t defining success by simply the medal depend on these Video games,” O’Neill mentioned. “Our circumstances for each qualification, competitors and classification had been fairly totally different from most of the different international locations this final 18 months. We had restrictions, and for all the proper causes, in Canada.

“And if I have a look at the top-five, top-eight finishes along with the medals, there’s lots of transition occurring now, so for the longer-term, particularly given the yr we’ve come out of, this bodes very well for each Paris and Los Angeles (in 2028).”

The Video games closed with a festive ceremony entitled “Harmonious Cacophony,” capped off with a blast of fireworks that spun across the high of the Nationwide Stadium.

An enormous constructive was these Paralympics set broadcasting data for hours of protection.

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“So, each time I seemed up on the empty stands, every seat to me represented about 1,000 those that had been viewing it from house which was fairly particular,” Dixon mentioned.

“You didn’t really feel solo holding that flag within the stands for positive,” O’Neill added. “I’d say all of Canada was with us.”

The one enormous adverse on each the Olympics and Paralympics was the absence of followers as a result of pandemic. Protocols additionally prevented relations from travelling to Japan.

The athletes, nevertheless, had been united of their reward for the Japanese folks.

“Thanks to Japan. They’ve accomplished such a terrific job, and with out them, athletes like us who practice our entire lives wouldn’t be capable of do that,” Lakatos mentioned of the organizers and volunteers.

He had form phrases for the Tokyo residents who weren’t in a position to take part within the Video games.

Learn extra:
Tokyo Paralympics open in empty stadium, identical to Olympics

“I bought again to the athletes village at round 10:30 at evening (after his silver medal within the 800 metres), I used to be on the aspect parking zone, and there have been households, younger children simply ready for a wave,” he mentioned. “They didn’t even know who can be coming into the village.

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“So, it might have been unimaginable with out COVID — however even with COVID, it was.”

The Canadian Paralympic Committee now pivots to the 2022 Beijing Video games, which open March 4.

O’Neill mentioned Canada’s winter athletes have confronted comparable challenges across the pandemic as their summer season counterparts. She added, nevertheless, that Tokyo was an enormous studying expertise and the staff will journey to Beijing armed with rather more data round security and protocols.

“It was good to get to Tokyo and see what the day-to-day actuality was,” she mentioned. “so, I feel that leaves everyone with a extra constructive sort of view in direction of plans and classes discovered for Beijing.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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