Canadian Paralympic Athletes Share Favorite 2021 Moments

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The end of 2021 is fast approaching, a unique year that has seen many memorable moments for Paralympic sport in Canada, including the return to competition for many athletes and the postponement of the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

To mark the end of the year, we asked some Canadian Paralympic athletes, past and present, to share their own memories and favorite times of the year.

Here’s what they shared:

Alison Levine, Boccia:
My best moment was taking pictures [like the below] was sent to me in Tokyo from my home from people who could watch Paralympic Boccia live for the first time!

Zak Madell, Wheelchair Rugby:
The highlight of my 2021 was definitely the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. There was so much uncertainty in the year and a half leading up to the Games, and we didn’t even know if that would happen. Even though the Games felt a bit different from previous events I have attended, the opportunity to represent Canada at such an important event never disappoints! I am grateful that we have had this opportunity again.

Amy Burk, goalball:
There have been a lot of exciting times in 2021. Running home to see the women’s football team win gold at the Olympics really stands out. I was in the process of completing the final preparation of the PCR tests for our trip to Tokyo. I recorded the ending I was missing and stayed away from my phone not to know who won. It was amazing!

The other big moment was finally arriving in Tokyo. It was our first competition since the start of the entire pandemic. It was nice to know that the Games were officially going to take place. It has been so long since we played against another team. This moment was incredible. Despite all of Covid’s restrictions, it was as if the world was starting to return to ‘normal’. It is always a huge honor to represent this incredible and beautiful country.

Marissa Papaconstantinou, Para-athletics:
My best moments of 2021 were:
• Have the opportunity to travel again by going to San Diego and Tokyo
• Make my second Paralympic team!
• Win the bronze medal in the 100m T64 women
• Throw the first pitch at the Blue Jays game on my return from Tokyo
• Watch live sports in Toronto again!

Marissa Papaconstantinou holding a baseball, wearing her bronze medal and a Blue Jays jersey before throwing the first pitch at the Blue Jays game

Priscilla Gagné, parajudo:
My best moments are:
• March with the Canadian flag during the opening ceremony
• Andrzej [Sadej], my trainer, putting the medal around my neck in Tokyo
• Enter the Paralympic Village, the most beautiful place on Earth
• Watching my fellow Canadian athletes continue to fight while training and maintaining a positive attitude
• See the Japanese working tirelessly to create a safe, warm and inviting place to compete in the midst of a pandemic
• Sitting in the cockpit while waiting to disembark in Tokyo
• Without a doubt, I loved seeing my Olympic counterparts making history in Canadian judo, Jessica [Klimkait] and cat BP [Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard] both won bronze medals for the first time in Canadian women’s history

Austin Smeenk, Para-athletics:
There was a ton! I like to live with the conviction that glass always overflows, it is never empty or full, it is a question of perspective and the air around the glass is always a fluid to consider.
• Watching the Olympic women’s football team win the gold medal from home while packing for Japan has to be noted as one of the greatest summits. Talk about an incredible sense of pride and excitement.
• Of course, representing Canada at the Paralympic Games is an incredible achievement, but the feeling of being a role model for young people in parasport has overtaken the feeling of getting on the plane.
• WATCH MY TEAMS EARN MEDALS and cheer them on from the Village or Paralympic Stadium. To experience their wins or losses in such a personal way and enthusiastically picking them up when they return to our building was amazing.
• My roommates Greg Stewart and Brent Lakatos won several medals which were all celebrated with enthusiasm. Without forgetting one of the team’s best friends at the Olympic Games, Marissa Paps, winning her first medal after a great year.
• Taking part in various competitions to prepare for the Games is also very high on the list. Especially in Quebec where I achieved a personal best to rank second in the world for the 2021 season.
• Tears of joy and belief in the improvement process!
• Coming home and visiting family and friends while continuing to surf what had just happened was also a ton of fun. My parents organized monitoring nights with many of my friends and relatives of friends. I felt like there was a community formed around my goal of being the best version of myself that I could be, and nothing else.
• Comments like you are so inspiring certainly felt great, especially when surrounded by such amazing people to begin with. It is a pleasure to represent this country, but more importantly, to be a witty and positivity citizen of the world. I love how sport can bring us together and create a dream come true for those who compete and provide inspiration and positive entertainment for those who watch.

Greg Stewart and his para-athletics teammate Brent Lakatos shake hands on the track at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Mark Arendz, para-nordic ski:
My best moment in 2021 is the potential that comes after this year’s work. Winter athletes are forged in the heat of summer, and 2021 was no different. We may have all had to adapt to a rapidly changing world, but that’s what Paralympians do best. 2021 is the year of final training and preparations well advanced, if not the conclusion, as Team Canada will soon travel to Beijing for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. The path to success usually has more impact. sustainable; 2021 is a pivotal stage in the journey to Beijing. The Beijing Games are a success, and although the past few years have led to a much different journey, the Games are still getting closer. The Games may be in 2022, but it’s 2021 that the athletes get to work, the goal that will translate into success in March! For me, 2021 is about working and focusing so that I can reach my potential next year, 2022.

Sally Thomas, Former Para Weightlifting Student (2004, 2008 Paralympian):
I would like to salute our Paralympic swimming team! We did awesome, once again!

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