Canada looks to gain ground at Rio Paralympics amid stiffer competition

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Canada’s most decorated Paralympian is hoping her country has another strong showing at the upcoming games in Rio despite what she describes as an increasingly competitive field.

Chantal Petitclerc, a native of Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, Que., who is serving as the Chef de Mission of Team Canada at the Games, said it’s more difficult than ever to win, with countries putting more money into their Paralympic teams.

That makes victory even sweeter, she said.

“The reality of the Paralympic world is the depth of field is increasing so much,” Petitclerc, who was recently named to the Senate, told CBC’s Breakaway.

“Many countries who did not invest in the past in the Paralympic movement are now putting a lot of energy, coaching and time into making sure they have a good Paralympic team.”

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Decorated wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc earned 21 medals and now serves as the Chef de Mission of Team Canada. (Rick Rycroft/Associated Press/File)

At the London Paralympic Games, Canada ranked 20th in the overall medal count.

Peticlerc is hoping the team can top that in Rio.

A lot of seasoned athletes retired after the Beijing and London Games so the team is fairly new. Still, a high overall medal count will have special significance for Canada, she said.

“If we can make it to top 16 that will mean that we are back to where we want to be – as a country that leads in the Paralympic movement,” she said.

‘So proud’ says athlete going to Rio

For some of Canada’s athletes, being at the Rio Games is already a victory.

Philippe Bédard, a wheelchair tennis player from Bromont, Que., was a competitive golfer and skier until he came down with lupus at the age of 22.

Over the next five years, he spent 700 days in hospital.

“They were possibly the last days of my life for sure,” Bédard said.

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Paralympic athlete Philippe Bédard said sports give him a sense of freedom. (Guillaume Nadeau/Radio-Canada)

“When I was in hospital I almost died a few times. I was so weak. And I wanted to live.”

He said that through daily exercise he was able to get his freedom back.

“For us, the athletes going into the opening ceremonies, you’ve done it. You stop, watch the crowd and say, ‘this is amazing.’ It’s the one moment where you say, ‘I did it,’ and you’re so proud.”

He added that he isn’t putting too much pressure on himself for the Rio Paralympic Games.

“I want to have fun.”

The Paralympics begin Wednesday and run until Sept. 18.

Originally posted here:  

Canada looks to gain ground at Rio Paralympics amid stiffer competition

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