Canadian Paralympic goalball teams announced at Variety Village in Scarborough
Team Canada’s goalball teams were announced during a recent ceremony at Variety Village in Scarborough ahead of the announcement of the entire Canadian Paralympic Team this week.
More than 160 athletes will represent Team Canada in 19 sports at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil. The Canadian Paralympic Committee announced the team by press release on Monday, Aug. 29, since many of its athletes were already in or heading to Rio de Janeiro for the Games, which run from Wednesday, Sept. 7 to Sunday, Sept. 18.
Six men and six women were named to Canada’s goalball teams and presented with official red, black and white Team Canada jackets during the Variety Village ceremony last Friday.
“We are thrilled to be able to launch these athletes before they go to Rio, and provide a training space for them to get them where they need to win their gold medal,” said Karen Stintz, president and CEO of Variety Village.
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Canada finished fifth and 10th in women’s and men’s goalball respectively. Both teams secured a spot in Rio by earning bronze medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games. The teams are no strangers to Paralympic podiums, with Canadian women winning goalball gold back-to-back in 2000 and 2004, after winning silver in 1984 and bronze in 1988 and 1995. Canada’s men won silver in goalball in 1996.
Whitney Bogart and Meghan Mahon from Ontario, Nancy Morin from Quebec, Ashlie Andrews from British Columbia, Jillian McSween from Nova Scotia and Amy Burk from Prince Edward Island were named to the women’s goalball team.
“We’re going for the gold,” said Bogart. “I want a Paralympic medal, and I’m training to get it.”
Bruno Haché and Brendan Gaulin from Quebec, Doug Ripley and Ahmad Zeividavi from British Columbia, Blair Nesbitt from Alberta and Simon Richard from New Brunswick were named to the men’s team.
“My goal is a gold medal,” said Haché. “My training, my preparation, has never been like this. I feel so very good for myself and for my team. I’ve never seen a team like this. We have so much fun together … They work so hard, and now it’s time to put it all together and go for gold.”
A Paralympic-only sport, goalball is played by athletes with a visual impairment. Goalballs weigh 1.25 kg, are about the size of a basketball, and have bells inside to help orientate players.
Teams of three face off on an indoor court, with players trying to throw the goalball into each other’s nets, using a bowling motion, and blocking shots with their arms, legs and bodies. Goalball masks are worn over the eyes to even the playing field between players with differing sight abilities.
Canada’s national team members demonstrated the sport using Variety Village’s new goalball nets, bought with a grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The two nets, worth $3,000 each, were custom designed in the United Kingdom with light-weight aluminum and a collapsible design, making them unique from any others in Ontario.
The national players were the first to use the new nets, but they won’t be the last. Variety Village hopes to start a goalball league, which would be Toronto’s second, with a group currently playing downtown at the Bob Abate Community Centre.
The goalball teams were leaving Wednesday, Aug. 31, for Rio, where Team Canada is aiming for a 16th or better overall finish in the medal standings.
“To say we’re excited about Rio is an understatement,” said Karen O’Neill, Canadian Paralympic Committee CEO, adding Canada has a good chance of medalling each day of competition.
The Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games could be a big factor for Team Canada in Rio.
“So many of our athletes would not have had the opportunity for such a calibre of competition before they headed into Rio,” noted O’Neill. “To have so many of our first-time Paralympians going into Rio, with having had a Parapan Ams under their belt in Toronto, home hosted, can’t ask for anything better in terms of practicing and being in the environment. We believe that will pay big, big dividends.”
Legacy facilities and equipment from the Toronto Pan and Parapan Am Games have also helped Canadian Paralympic athletes up their game, she added.
Along with goalball, O’Neill said Canada’s wheelchair and boccia teams are ones to watch in Rio. Two new sports will debut this year — para-triathlon and para-canoe. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games opening ceremony will be broadcast on CBC at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7. Visit www.paralympic.ca for more about the Canadian Paralympic Team.
“Get to know the team,” encouraged O’Neill. “And never underestimate a good, loud cheer for Go Team Canada.”