Thursday, August 8, 2013

2 Year Countdown to Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

With two years to go until Toronto hosts the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, ten communities who will be hosting events celebrated with athlete appearances, dignitary speeches and activities for young and old. The Pan Am events were held a couple of weeks ago in:
  • Ajax - baseball/softball
  • Caledon - equestrian
  • Hamilton - soccer
  • Markham - aquatics, badminton, table tennis, golf
  • Milton - track cycling
  • Mississauga - judo, karate, taekwondo, wrestling and Para events goalball, powerlifting and wheelchair rugby
  • Oshawa - boxing
  • St. Catharines - rowing
  • Welland - canoe/kayak sprint
  • Toronto - various sports
I attended the Toronto event at Commerce Court where Paralympian Josh Cassidy was Master of Ceremonies.

Roger Garland, TO2015 Chairman of the Board accepted a certificate from the mayor of Toronto declaring today Pan Am/Parapan Am Day in Toronto.

Also present were Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut and Gaétan Tardif, recently elected Canadian Paralympic Committee President.

The highlight was seeing Olympic silver medallist Jason Burnett perform on the trampoline. For over two hours, he would demonstrate his routines every 10-15 minutes.

Jason was also very gracious with his silver medal from the Beijing Olympics, showing it to anyone who wanted to see it (and even get to hold it).

There were opportunities for people to try their hand at some sports like fencing (as part of the modern pentathlon exhibit).

The pentathletes also demonstrated their skills and posed for photos.

Beatrice Cigagna lunges at Christopher Rudolph

Alyssa Yu and Hillary Elliott

There were murals painted by David Arrigo that were unveiled and will be on display at the various venues.

I love that some of the athletes have autographed the paintings (Justyn Warner and Benoit Huot in the two above (I believe)- Rosie Maclennan also signed the one on the far right "Welcome to Toronto").

Yesterday, there were two events being held to celebrate two years to go to the Parapan Am Games in Whitby (host for boccia and judo) and Toronto.

The Toronto event involved a celebrity wheelchair basketball game that included :

Richard Peter - 5-time wheelchair basketball paralympian (winning 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal)
Marnie Abbott-Peter - 5-time wheelchair basketball paralympian (winning 3 golds and 1 bronze)
Tamara Steeves - wheelchair basketball paralympian
Amanda Yan Team Canada wheelchair basketball
Suleiman Muse - Team Canada para canoe
Sammi Joe Small - 3 time Olympian (2 gold) hockey
Josh Cassidy - Paralympic marathoner and winner of Boston Marathon and London Marathon.
and many more

Although it was great to see the politicians/organizers/celebrities struggle at playing to show us the difficulty of wheelchair basketball, I loved seeing the wheelchair athletes show their skill - although this was in the minority of the moments. Most of the wheelchair basketball players preferred to pass to their "celebrity" teammates to give them a chance at playing or in Richard Peter's case, stand at the bottom of his opponent's net to not let the short shots go out of bounds and pass the ball back to keep the play going. He did take the limelight near the end of the game with an effortless 3-pointer that had supporters for both teams cheering.

Those few moments of brilliance have made me want to go see a live wheelchair basketball game.

One of the highlights for many of the kids was the appearance of Pachi, the Pan/Parapan Am Games mascot.

I especially loved the side/back view of the 41 colourful quills, one for each of the country represented at the Pan Am Games.

With two years to the Pan Am games, I can't wait to follow our summer athletes on the road to the Pan Am Games followed by the Rio Olympics in 2016.

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