Stars of the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games
Stars of the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games
Top athletes from across the Americas are starting to arrive in Toronto for what international sport leaders are already saying will be the best Parapan Am Games in history. Just as seen with last month’s Pan Am Games, a slew of Parapan Am records are expected to be set at this historical event.
Fans will have a chance to see some of the top para-athletes in the world combined with the sensational athleticism that made the London 2012 Paralympic Games the most successful ever.
The International Paralympic Committee says Toronto will do for the Parapan Am Games what London did for the Paralympic Games. With 15 sports ― which are all Paralympic qualifiers ― the competition will be fierce in many of the new venues that were packed to the rafters during the Pan Am Games.
Here are some of the top athletes to watch during the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games:
Jarryd Wallace — athletics/sprint, USA
Jarryd Wallace of the United States runs the 200 metres almost as fast as Andre Degrasse, and he’ll be the one to beat in that event in the T44 class — where he’s the world champion and the world record holder. Wallace won gold at the Parapan Am Games four years ago, just over a year after having his leg amputated due to compartment syndrome. World-class able-bodied athletes shoot to break 20 seconds, while Wallace does it in just over 22 seconds with an artificial blade on his right leg. Wallace, who was named Male Para-Athlete of the Year by USA Track & Field in 2013, is expected to be a fan favourite at this summer’s Parapan Am Games.
Yunidis Castillo — athletics, Cuba
Nicknamed the “Queen of Speed,” Castillo is one of the world’s fastest Paralympians. Known for sweeping up titles at every event she competes in, Castillo won the 100, 200 and 400-metre world titles in 2013, just as she had done at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, as well as the year before at the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand.
Daniel Dias ― swimming, Brazil
Daniel Dias, the Brazilian Paralympic swimmer who is often compared to Olympian Michael Phelps, has won more medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games than any other athlete. After winning six gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 11 gold medals at the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan Am Games and setting four world records, his profile has continued to grow.
Andre Brasil ― swimming, Brazil
Andre Brasil, another swimming superstar from Brazil, not only won four gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and three more at the London 2012 Games, but he’s also a world record holder in the S10 50-metre freestyle. In total, he has 10 Paralympic medals and nine more from the International Paralympic Committee’s World Championships ― eight of which are gold. Swimming in the S10 class, Brasil is a long-time rival of Canada’s swimming great, Benoît Huot.
Benoît Huot ― swimming, Canada
Benoît Huot, CIBC Team Next mentor, is one of Canada’s most accomplished Paralympians of all time, having won 19 medals at four Paralympic Games. Determined to compete on home soil in front of family and friends, in perhaps one of his last Games, Huot moved to Toronto to train at the new CIBC Pan Am /Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House for this summer’s Parapan Am Games.
Zak Madell ― wheelchair rugby, Canada
Considered one of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world, Zak Madell is leading Team Canada in wheelchair rugby, one of this summer’s most anticipated competitions. Madell was a main goal scorer and playmaker on Canada’s silver-medal winning team at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and he was also recently awarded the Most Valuable Player title at the 2014 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championship in Denmark.
Originally coined “murderball,” and with its origins in Canada, the hard-hitting, fast-paced wheelchair rugby competition is a big hit with fans. The Canadian team, which is considered one of the world’s best, after winning a silver in both the 2014 World Championships and 2012 Paralympic Games, is looking forward to competing against top teams from across the Americas on home soil and against big rivals, including the United States.
David Eng ― wheelchair basketball, Canada
Wheelchair Basketball Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year, 2012, and the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association’s Male Athlete of the Year, 2009, David Eng is a well-known name in the sport. Eng won gold at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, silver at the Rio 2007 Parapan Am Games, silver in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and bronze at the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan Am Games.
Eng is known for his dedication to parasport on and off the court. He can be seen featured in the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s 2010 ad campaign, which raised awareness for the Canadian Paralympic Movement, and in the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games promotional video Are You Ready?
As a member of the Canadian men’s team, which took home top place at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Eng is primed to help lead the team to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by giving his all on the court in the fight against top competitors Colombia, USA, Mexico and Brazil.
Janet McLachlan ― wheelchair basketball, Canada
Named the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year, Janet McLachlan has been a member of Team Canada in two World Championships. At the 2010 Worlds, she led all players in scoring and rebounding, and, in 2014, she made the tournament’s all-star team and led all players in rebounding, which resulted in finishing second overall in scoring.
McLachlan and her Canadian teammates are entering the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games as world champions ― after their 2014 win on home soil. The team will be looking to win a medal to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Marco Dispaltro ― boccia, Canada
Previously known in the parasport world for his trash-talking on the wheelchair rugby court, Marco Dispaltro exploded onto the boccia scene in 2010. It didn’t take him long to become a well-known name in the sport after winning a silver at the 2011 Parapan Am Games and a bronze at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Dispaltro is currently ranked number one in the world in the BC4 class.
Josh Cassidy ― athletics, Canada
Canada’s parasport poster child, Josh Cassidy, has won more than 75 medals in wheelchair racing. His long list of achievements includes holding the title of world’s fastest wheelchair racing marathon time, Canada’s reigning five-year champion for his wins at the 2012 Boston Marathon and the 2010 London Marathon, and the Canadian record holder in the 1,500, 5,000 and 1,000-metre and marathon.
“Jefinho” Gonçalves ― football 5–a-side, Brazil
Nicknamed the “Paralympic Pele,” Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves or more commonly known as “Jefinho,” is a national star in Brazil. The footballer helped Brazil win gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the 2014 World Championships in Brazil. Jefinho is considered the world’s best football 5-a-side player ― football 5-a-side is a fast-paced sport for athletes with a visual impairment. The sport showcases athletes’ exceptional abilities in dribbling, control and the execution of powerful shots.
The field of play is smaller than a regulation football (soccer) field, with boards on each side. Teams are made up of five players, including the goalkeeper who is the only sighted player on the team. The ball is equipped with a noise-making device to allow players to locate it by sound.
Gustavo Fernandez ― wheelchair tennis, Argentina
At only 19, Gustavo Fernandez is expected to be a top contender at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The young star is one to watch at this summer’s Parapan Games, after winning the wheelchair tennis doubles competition at Wimbledon and having reached the semifinals of the French and Australian Open in doubles. He is now ranked as one of the world’s the top five men’s singles players. Fernandez is coming to this summer’s Games as the defending wheelchair tennis gold medallist from the 2011 Parapan Am Games.