In anticipation of the upcoming Paralympic Torch Relay, we pass along the following information...
One hundred and forty-three athletes competing in 17 Paralympic sports make up the Canadian team attending the Beijing Paralympic Summer Games in China, from September 6 to 17, the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced today.
The athletes will be accompanied by about 120 coaches, medical staff and other support team members.
"We are all looking forward to the excitement of the thirteenth Paralympic Summer Games," said the Canadian Paralympic Committee's Chef de Mission for the Canadian team Debbie Low. "This will be an opportunity for Canada to shine on the international stage."
The Beijing Paralympic team is the same size as the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games Team. Canada is targeting a top five placing. It finished third overall at the Paralympic Summer Games in Sydney in 2000 and again in Athens in 2004.
"I am forecasting a stellar performance by Canada's Paralympic athletes at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Summer Games in China," said the Canadian Paralympic Committee's Assistant Chef de Mission for the Canadian team Gaetan Tardif. "Paralympic athletes are truly phenomenal. They are amazing and inspiring, and I can't wait to see them perform in China."
Canada is participating in archery, athletics, wheelchair basketball (men's and women's), boccia, cycling, equestrian, fencing, goalball (men's and women's), judo, powerlifting, rowing, wheelchair rugby, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair tennis. Canada does not have a five-a-side football team, and did not qualify for the Paralympic Summer Games in sitting volleyball and seven-a-side football.
"Canada has always been a leader in the Paralympic Movement - both on and off the field," said CPC President Carla Qualtrough. "But the competition is getting deeper as more countries participate in the Paralympic Games and fiercer as many countries have started investing more in their athletes and Paralympic sports."
The number of countries fielding delegations to the Paralympic Games has increased rapidly, growing from 125 countries in Sydney to 136 in Athens to 145 countries expected in Beijing.
About 4,000 athletes from around the world are expected to participate in the Beijing Paralympic Games, the premiere sporting event for athletes with a physical disability.
Qualtrough added, "To maintain our current top-five status in the face of intensifying international competition, Canada must develop an athlete development system, through which people can progress from the recreational level all away up to the Paralympic level.
This will involve continued coordination and collaboration among national and provincial sports organizations, creating more sporting opportunities for Canadians with a physical disability and promoting greater awareness of Paralympic sport.
CPC Past President Henry Wohler noted, "The upcoming Beijing Summer Games will do much to promote the excitement of Paralympic sport."