Canadian bocce player Alison Levine couldn’t hold back her emotions.
When she went to the square for her first workout at the Ariake Gymnastics Center the day before the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, she was overwhelmed with joy, relief, and pride.
“We did it,” she told CBC Sports.
After a year of delay and amid the perpetual pandemic, the Paralympics are finally here. Around 4,400 athletes from more than 160 nations will compete against each other in 22 sports during the games.
Canadians will compete in 18 of the 22 sports.
The team will be led to the games by standard-bearer Priscilla Gagné, a 35-year-old visually impaired judoka from Sarnia, Ontario. In the 52-kilogram class of women, she occupies second place in the world rankings.
CLOCK | Parajudoka Priscilla Gagné is Canada’s standard bearer for the Paralympics in Tokyo:
Levine from Montreal is one of 128 Canadian athletes competing in Tokyo. She is number one in the world in her ranking, the first woman to hold the top position.
“It’s so hard to put into words how proud I am. To show the world and watch any little girl or anyone with a disability, you can do it here. You can do anything,” she said.
“If I have someone who has watched or heard me go out and try a sport, then I’ve done my job as an athlete.”
Canadian wheelchair basketball superstar Patrick Anderson shares this feeling.
At the age of 42, Anderson made his fifth appearance at the Paralympics. He has won three gold medals and one silver medal in his last four games.
Anderson, who is from Fergus, Ontario, was hit by a drunk driver at the age of nine and lost both legs below the knee. Two years later he discovered wheelchair basketball. He is considered the best in the world in this sport and has been dominant for years.
After skipping the Rio games, he’s back on the team hoping to get them back on the podium.
“Every four years we have the opportunity to move forward the Paralympics, the Paralympic movement and the kind of advocacy it means for people with disabilities around the world,” he told CBC Sports.
“Put on a good show and hopefully bring home a medal and that way make Canadians proud.”
The Tokyo Paralympics will air prime time in North America this summer. This is the first time that both CBC in Canada and an American broadcaster in the US have broadcast the event in the evening.
As soon as the competition starts in Tokyo on Wednesday, CBC will present a one-hour show from 7-8pm local time, which is part of a five-hour daily coverage on the network. In addition, up to 12 events are streamed live on cbcsports.ca and CBC GEM every day.
Canada’s chief de mission, Stephanie Dixon, says the Paralympic movement continues to make great strides.
“We are in a good time in the Paralympic movement. We are also in a time when the Paralympics are more than just sport. It’s about human rights and inclusion and about all people who make their dreams come true.”
Dixon, who won 19-time Paralympic medals in swimming at the Games, says Canadian athletes understand the importance of their role in inspiring people across the country.
“You see the human spirit at its best, especially in these times of COVID. I think when we see Paralympic athletes fight, and the heart, courage and courage, then everyone else wants to be brave and brave too.” said Dixon.
“This has always been a bigger movement and has changed the way people see people with disabilities. The world is finally ready to hear that. “
These games take place in the middle of Tokyo in the fourth state of emergency. Spectators were not allowed to attend events. There have already been positive cases in the Athletes’ Village, but Dixon says Team Canada is comfortable with all of the protocols put in place to protect athletes.
“I am so impressed with the feedback we have heard from the athletes. I have not heard anyone doubt the measures. They are very confident not only about the 2020 measures but also about the additional measures taken by the Canadian Paralympic Committee. ” put, ”she said.
Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, endorsed Dixon’s statements on the safety precautions.
“We believe things will go well. We will have cases. It is impossible to have zero positive cases, but the most important thing is how you monitor them and get them from the rest of the athletes, officials and everyone around these games isolate, “he said.
And Parsons believes these Paralympics are the most important in the history of the Games, given the challenges the athletes faced while preparing for Tokyo.
“We believe that this is where her voice needs to be heard the most. And the Paralympics are the only global event that puts people with disabilities at the center. That is why we give them the vote. The time when your voice needs to be heard So I think these games are the most important of all time, “said Parson.