Canadian Paralympic preparations

As Canadians everywhere revel in Canada Day and the 150th birthday of the country, the Canadian Paralympic Committee is also focusing on preparations for the upcoming 2020 summer Games in Tokyo. We checked in with the organization’s Executive Director, Sport, Catherine Gosselin-Després.

What most appeals to you about the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics?

Everything about this city is going to make the Games great: the people, the culture and the capital’s overall environment. I also think we will have great support from the Japanese people and Canadians in Japan, so that will make it exciting for our sports.

In a modern country such as Japan, these Games are going to signal a new age for Paralympic sport and people with a disability. I think we’ll send the clearest message yet to the world, about the talents and potential of people with a disability.

How is Team Canada preparing for the Games?

We began working with our sports and national federations early, to make sure they are able to optimally prepare their plans for the Games. Understanding Japan, Tokyo and the overall Games footprint has also been positive, as there are many similarities in terms of efficiencies that we like to see as Canadians.

The Canadian summer athletes are very motivated right now. We had a record performance at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto and then we did very well at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016. We had a lot of young talent in Rio and there’s a feeling we can gain some more ground in the overall medal standings in Tokyo. We’re already seeing great performances in 2017 from our medal contenders, so our athletes are doing well early in the quadrennial.

What opportunities do the Games present for Canadian businesses and nationals living in Japan?

There are going to be many exciting opportunities to support Team Canada, both with our sports teams ahead of time and with us in the lead up. Whether hospitality, sponsorships, VIP tours or new partnerships, we’re encouraged by the great support that we are enjoying already in Tokyo.

What are some of Canada’s top sports?

There’ll be 22 sports in Tokyo at the Paralympic Games and we anticipate that Canadians will compete in most of them. At many Games in the past, swimming and athletics were our big medal producers continue to excel. Then in Rio, cycling was our number one sport for which we garnered nine medals.

Then there are also sports like boccia, rowing, canoe, equestrian and triathlon, in which we have potential to find our way to the podium. And we expect our wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby teams to make a strong challenge for medals after going through a rebuilding process in Rio.

At these Games, the Paralympic program will see the addition of new sports. What are they?

Para badminton and Para taekwondo are two new sports debuting at the Games, and Canada has programs in both. We expect we will be able to qualify athletes to compete in Tokyo.

What can fans expect from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics?

Athletes will compete in state-of-the-art venues under perfect conditions and fans will be inspired to see what people who have a disability can achieve. They say if you set your mind to something, you can achieve success.

Fans will see that theory actually in action. They will also see the importance of teamwork in Paralympic sport, whether it is at a wheelchair basketball game or a sport assistant in boccia.

What does Canada 150 mean to the Canadian Paralympic Committee?

Canada 150 celebrations started off on Parliament Hill last New Year’s Eve. Para swimmers Benoît Huot and Aurélie Rivard were among the guests at the celebration and live national broadcast. We are so proud of our athletes; they are role models for all Canadians and are outstanding representatives of our country.

Photo of Brent Lakatos: Matthew Murnaghan/Canadian Paralympic Committee 

If you’re interested in learning more about sports events around the country, make sure to visit Japan Sports Journey.

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