Just over a week ago, 128 of Canada’s finest para-athletes began their quest for glory in Tokyo.
In a Paralympic Games like no other, the ascent to the mountaintop would be different – no fans, no family and increased protocols. Despite all that stood in their way, this nation’s athletes persevered and gave us some wonderful moments.
Toronto Observer sports journalists put their heads together and came up with this list of the top-five, in no particular order.
Aurélie Rivard shatters 400m world record
One of Canada’s brightest young stars made an unmistakable imprint on international swimming.
The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., native collected five medals at the games, but none were as indicative of her dominance as the 400-m freestyle on August 25.
The 25-year-old lined up against six of her contemporaries, but little did everyone know she wasn’t racing against them, she was racing against history.
After four electrifying laps, Rivard touched the wall with a time of 4:24.08, over five seconds faster than the previous world mark of 4:29.27.
The then nine-time Paralympic medalist added another bronze several days later to raise her career total to 10 – placing her in a tie for ninth all time for Canada.
Priscilla Gagné, Canada’s flagbearer, wins silver in Judo
Gagné had been dreaming about being in the Olympics since she was a 10-year-old child. After 25 years of dedication the Granby, Que, native was headed to Tokyo – but with a pleasant wrinkle to her plans.
Out of the 128 athletes Canada sent to Tokyo – Priscilla Gagné was chosen to lead the Country into Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies. Three days later, she rose from the mat as silver medalist in women’s 52kg para-judo.
Gagné described being the flagbearer to be an honor – it’s safe to say she represented the role quite well.
Brent Lakatos surpasses mentor Andre Vigér in medals.
When Lakatos was a teenager in Dorval, Que., he met Andre Vigér, a pioneer of wheelchair racing in Canada and four time Paralympian, who introduced the 16-year-old to racing, and provided him with his first chair.
Now 25 years after they first met in 1996, Lakatos had the opportunity to surpass his mentor on the Canadian all time Paralympic medal list.
On Sept. 2, the 41-year-old made his way to the start line of the T53 800-meter final, eyeing a gold medal finish.
While he was narrowly beaten by Thailand’s Pongsakorn Paeyo, Lakatos claimed his fourth silver of the Games, vaulting himself past Vigér and making himself one of the most decorated Canadian wheelchair racers in history.
Greg Stewart wins gold with his first-ever Paralympic throw
Greg Stewart has always wanted to be a Paralympian. The 7-foot-2 shot-putter had been grinding the parasport circuit for two decades attempting to reach the pinnacle – this year in Tokyo he finally had his chance to shine.
And shine he did, as the Kamloops native entered the inner circuit of Japan National Stadium on Sept. 1 with a gold medal on his mind.
Two decades of work leading up to one glorious moment – Stewart’s first throw of 16.75 meters in the F46 shot put would not just win the gold, it would set a Paralympic record.
Six rounds of attempts from his competitors proved futile and Canada convincingly had captured it’s third gold of the games.
Danielle Dorris breaks her own world record to win gold
Danielle Dorris qualified for the women’s 50-metre butterfly S7 final in style – by setting a world record with a time of 33.51.
The pressures of a final wouldn’t be anything new to Dorris, as four days prior, the 18-year-old found the podium in the 100-metre breaststroke S7, capturing silver for her first paralympic medal.
However, with the world record established, the Moncton N.B., born swimmer wouldn’t settle for anything other than gold.
When the time came to repeat her dominance in the final, Dorris did not disappoint. She lined up against seven fellow competitors and 17 seconds into the race established a bodylength lead.
A triumphant Dorris would go on to beat her own world record with a time of 32.99 to secure the gold medal.
Digital layout by Luis Fernandez, Toronto Observer