Tag Archives: Paralympics

Japan reportedly to stage Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics minus overseas spectators

Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Tokyo 2020 games organizing committee said in response that a decision would be made by the end of March.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Kyodo said the government had concluded welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying.

The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without any spectators, Kyodo said.

“The organizing committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic,” Kyodo said, quoting the officials.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto has said she wants a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.

“Five parties, the IOC, the IPC [International Paralympic Committee], Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government, came together for a meeting via online just last week,” the organizing committee said in response to the Kyodo report.

“The decision regarding allowing spectators from overseas to attend the Tokyo 2020 Games will be made by the end of March based on factors including the state of infections in Japan and other countries, possible epidemic-prevention measures, and expert scientific advice will be considered.”

Public wary

In the last Olympic Games, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, local fans accounted for 80 per cent of all ticket sales, with international fans buying 20 percent.

While coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.

Japan has recorded more than 441,200 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with the death toll at more than 8,300.

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.

The survey showed 77 per cent of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18 per cent in favour.

Some 48 per cent said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45 per cent were in favour.

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CBC | Sports News

Wheelchair mixed doubles curling added to 2026 Paralympics in Italy

The Paralympic community is celebrating after it was announced Wednesday that another discipline of the roaring game has been added to the 2026 Paralympics in Italy.

The International Paralympic Committee confirmed wheelchair mixed doubles curling has been provisionally approved as an additional event at the 2026 Paralympic Winter Games.

The announcement was made following official confirmation at a recent IPC board meeting.

Curling Canada’s national wheelchair coach Mick Lizmore says this addition is a boost for the sport. 

“This is truly good news for the sport of wheelchair curling, and will certainly add motivation to Canadian athletes as we work towards the debut of mixed doubles in 2026,” Lizmore said.

“It will open more eyes to the possibilities of getting involved with wheelchair curling.”

Canada’s success at Paralympics

Canada has had great success at the Paralympics in the mixed team event, having won three golds and a bronze medal since it was added to the program in 2006.

Now, Canadian curlers will have another chance to add to the medal haul at the 2026 Paralympics.

“This is about expanding the winter sport program,” said Martin Richard, executive director of communications for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“We only have five sports in the Paralympics right now so this is a great opportunity to show Canadians more winter athletes.”

Those five sports include nordic events, alpine skiing, snowboarding, para ice hockey and curling.

“I know the Paralympics community as a whole is quite excited. Our staff celebrated the news this morning. We knew this was coming but you just never know,” Richard said.

This now means that two curling events, mixed team and mixed doubles, are part of the 2026 Paralympic winter program. 

However, there will be changes to the number of teams competing — the mixed team event will go from 12 teams to 10 teams, meaning there will be 10 less athletes competing in that bonspiel. The mixed doubles wheelchair event will feature no more than eight teams — an increase of 16 athletes at the Games.

Final confirmation by late 2022 or early 2023

A final confirmation of all medal events and athlete quotas will be made by the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board in late 2022 or the first quarter of 2023.

World Curling Federation President Kate Caithness says they are absolutely delighted with the news, confirming that two wheelchair curling events will be included in the Paralympic program in 2026.

“We are confident that this new discipline will accelerate the visibility and growth of wheelchair curling in the coming years. This is a fundamental step in showcasing our sport and making it more accessible to everyone around the world,” she said.

The Canadian mixed team is coming off a silver medal performance at last year’s world wheelchair curling championship.

The upcoming world championship, which will also feature mixed doubles wheelchair curling for the first time, was scheduled for Lohja, Finland in January 2021. However, the event has been cancelled and a new competition date in late 2021 is being explored. 

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Delayed Paralympics has reinforced swim great Aurélie Rivard’s determination to succeed

It’s been a couple of days since athletes across Canada were granted their second-chance of sorts.

While a postponement of Tokyo 2020 seemed inevitable, Canadian Olympians and Paralympians were holding their collective breath after it was announced they wouldn’t be attending should the Games go on as scheduled for this summer.

It was that unknowing and jolt of having their athletic dreams hanging in the balance that has one of Canada’s most prolific Paralympic swimmers, Aurélie Rivard, now is asking the big questions about why she does what she does and what’s really important.

“Having swimming taken away these past few weeks has made me realize just how much I miss it and how much I love my lifestyle,” Rivard said from her parent’s home on the south shore of Montreal.

“It made me realize I’m not ready to quit just yet.”

Rivard, 24, has been grappling with the idea of retirement after Tokyo. It’s only been a recent thought, but it’s there. The five-time Paralympic medallist and closing ceremony flag-bearer in Rio 2016 was ramping up for her third Games this coming summer.

She’s poured the past 12 years of her life into this.

WATCH | Postponement lets Laurence Vincent Lapointe redo nightmare year:

Anything that could go wrong for the canoer before Tokyo 2020, did. Now, she gets a second chance. 5:50

In the lead-up to the past two Games and these upcoming ones in Tokyo, Rivard stops everything she’s doing outside of swimming to prepare. She wakes up, goes to the pool to train and then comes home. Repeat.

“The one thing that was keeping me motivated and doing so much and sacrificing so much was knowing it was only going to last a few more months. And now it’s another year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to an extra year to be better but I’m going to be 25 and all of my rivals are much younger. We improve so much more year-by-year when you’re younger.”

High-performance athletes are rare breeds. Their single-mindedness and determination is unrivaled. It’s what makes them great. But it’s also what makes stopping due to injury or retiring that much more challenging — how they function outside of training and competing every day is something many athletes grapple with.

Rivard celebrates her gold medal in the women’s 400m freestyle – S10 in Rio. (Getty Images)

And in the lives of Olympians and Paralympians there usually isn’t something so life-altering as a global pandemic to force them to hit pause, sit idle and ask the big questions about life.

Rivard is in the throes of that.

“We never have time to sit down and look back. When I won my medals in Rio, I think I looked at them months later,” Rivard said. “We never have time to think about what we’re actually doing.”

Rivard has been candid in the past about her mental health struggles and dealing with the dark days. It’s been swimming that pulled her out of the depths of negativity. She’s acutely aware she’s not alone in the fear, worry and anxiety over these uncertain times.

“The thing that healed me in the past was swimming. For the past 12 years I’ve awakened knowing exactly how my day was going to be and where I was going to go. And now it’s all gone. It’s very stressful,” Rivard said.

“Safety and saving lives is the priority. Everyone is going through this and have their own challenges.”

Rivard says she’s relying on her past experiences of overcoming adversity from not going “insane right now” as she stays at home, not knowing when she might get in a pool again.

And while there are still many questions regarding qualifications and timelines around a new schedule for the Games in 2021, Rivard is trying to use this time as an opportunity to get better mentally and physically.

Rivard says she must refocus her training to be ready next year, and not in August as originally planned. (Getty Images)

“I’m trying to focus on what I can control. I can’t do anything about this. Everyone is in the same boat and it’s kind of reassuring,” she said. “It makes me want to work harder and be even better.”

The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.-native is in the best shape of her career and her goal is to maintain that high level and defend her three gold medals from Rio and add a few more to her name in Tokyo.

“My goal is always to be better than the year before,” Rivard said. “I wanted to go there and have the best swim meet of my life. I want to swim faster than I did in Rio and maybe add other medals.”

Canada’s Paralympic chef de mission Stephanie Dixon knows all too well what Rivard is experiencing right now.

Dixon is one of the country’s most decorated athletes, having won a staggering 19 Paralypmic medals and being named to the Order of Canada for her dedication to and excellence in sport.

“Right now the world is hurting. My heart goes out to the people this affects the most and of course the athletes I relate to so much,” Dixon told CBC Sports.

“This is a really, really big deal for our athletes. They’re losing their identity and that purpose. Everyone is in that boat but for very driven athletes it’s what gets them up and fuels their fire.”

Born in Brampton, Ont., Dixon made her Paralympic Games debut at 16, competing in Sydney where she captured five gold medals and three in world-record time.

WATCH | Paralympic dream put on hold for Regina hopeful:

With the postponement of Tokyo 2020, 38-year-old Janz Stein says he’s going to postpone his track and field retirement as well. 1:02

Dixon, 35, was on the phone for hours of conference calls taking place to make the decision to pull Team Canada from the Olympics. She says it was incredible to see how the Canadian sport system pulled together to make the collective decision.

“It was such a beautiful moment in Canadian sports history. Challenging for sure but it was the right thing to do,” she said.

Dixon says if anyone knows isolation, challenge and how to rise up in the face of uncertainty, it’s Canada’s Paralympians.

She says when the time comes, these athletes will inspire the nation in Tokyo.

“Our Paralympic athletes have overcome more adversity than most humans. They have this incredible resilience to deal with adversity. I do believe that if there are going to be people to rise up above this pandemic and become stronger it’s going to be our Paralympians,” Dixon said.

“We can turn to them and draw upon that strength as an example for the rest of us.”

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Q&A: Paralympics boss says Games can be a force for inclusion in divisive times

Andrew Parsons became the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in 2017. In that time he was seen the Paralympic movement grow even more than the watershed event at the London 2012 Games.

With one year to go before the Tokyo Paralympics, Parson detailed an ambitious plan for the future to CBC Sports, including his stance on doping and playing a major role in human rights.

I want to start with a question that’s a little away from Tokyo and some of the other issues. So what keeps you up at night?

Andrew Parsons: [Laughs] It’s not being able to deliver what I promised — to help nations around the world grow and to help the Paralympic movement in general stop scratching the surface of its potential. Of course, I have some other major concerns. We are in this together with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the whole sports movement which is it to keep sport relevant.  There are some other formats that are coming up and some other activities such as esports and different types of sport tournaments not traditionally organized under the sport structure of the last century. 

I also think there is more skepticism than ever before about the cost, relevance and legacy of the Games. We have seen the referendums [against bids]. This is something that really scares me because it will mean much less investment from government and partners. 

When you look ahead specifically to Tokyo 2020 — how is it looking compared to London 2012 which is considered the benchmark for media coverage and spectators?

AP: London brought the movement to a new level. And in a way Rio 2016, because of the challenges and things like poor promotion, was maybe from that perspective even more important than London. Despite the problems, the Brazilian public still came out.  They created an incredible atmosphere, embracing the athletes and Paralympic sport. Tokyo will not face the challenges of Rio — thank God.  

We are working with a very reliable organizing committee. They are promoting the Games in the same way as they are the Olympics. The media is super excited already. We have research that shows that the awareness of the Paralympics is much higher with one year to go in Tokyo than it was at this stage for London 2012. We have more people in Japan that can name Japanese Paralympic athletes than people in the UK could name British athletes in this same period of time prior to the Games. This is because commercial partners are promoting Paralympic athletes and using them in their commercial campaigns. Using a Para athlete in Japan like this is a breakthrough for that society.

The 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics will be a biggest time for change, according to Parsons. (Getty Images )

You recently lifted the Russian suspension as a result of the doping scandal even though one of conditions was that Russia had to accept the findings of the McLaren report which concluded there was state-sponsored doping — something Russia refused to do. How do you convince athletes from other nations that they are competing against other clean athletes. 

AP: We took the hardest possible stance against Russia and we are very proud of what we did in the lead up to Rio. But immediately after Rio, we started to work with the Russian Paralympic Committee so that they could come back but in the right way, meaning that they would have to have policies and procedures in place and robust testing plans. We had a Task Force to oversee that process. The Task Force was against lifting the suspension exactly because of the acknowledgement of the McLaren report that didn’t occur.

It became clear to us that we were at an impasse because we understood that the acknowledgement of the McLaren report would never happen. We could not punish a country or Paralympic Committee forever because of the reluctance of some of their leaders. So, we decided to bring some conditions to guarantee a very robust testing plan that the athletes need to follow if they want to compete in Tokyo. The Russian athletes will be the most scrutinized athletes in the world when it comes to the Paralympic movement.

When you look ahead to the future you have a Paralympics coming up in Los Angeles in 2028.  I’ve seen you talk about how the IPC can be proud of how far you’ve come in 30 years — but you’ve also said you are only scratching the surface of your potential. What do you mean by that?

AP: We should be far more ambitious. The Games are mature enough to support and partner with other organizations around the world to have a bigger influence — especially around human rights. Using the Paralympic movement to promote inclusion for people with disabilities but also promoting diversity is an agenda that is needed in today’s world where we see so much polarization. You see [this polarization] in the United States.

WATCH | Paris, Los Angeles awarded Olympic Games:

It’s the first time the IOC has granted two Summer Olympics at once.​ 0:38

I see it in my own country [Brazil] and diversity goes in the other direction — respecting and valuing people who are different from you. That’s why I think the Paralympics is more needed than ever before. We have to promote this through sport. We are a sport organization where our athletes are ambassadors. In a way, we want them to be our activists too to help make a profound impact in the world when it comes to these agendas of inclusion, diversity and human rights. 

You asked before what keeps me up at night. Every day, when I wake up, I think about L.A. [2028]. These are the Games that can really change the Paralympic movement because our presence in the U.S. is still not that strong and it’s probably one of the most important markets in the world. We are not even scratching the surface [in terms of commercial partnerships and broadcasting]. We have seen a change in leadership in the USOPC [U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee] now [formerly USOC].

They finally put Paralympics in their name. They started giving the same prize money to Olympians and Paralympians. This sends a strong message of equality and this was something that only happened last year. We have a very committed leadership in LA2028 that sees the potential of the Paralympic Games and amplifying the reach of the Paralympics is one of their main pillars. We have a perfect storm coming in 2028. I think L.A. will be the moment when we can stop scratching the surface and really play a major role in this human rights agenda. It will be the moment when we are considered maybe not the most important sporting event in the world but the most important sporting event in the world that drives societal change. 

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Mark Arendz named Canada's flag-bearer for Paralympics closing ceremony

Para nordic star Mark Arendz was named Canada’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Arendz has won five medals so far at the Games — including a long-coveted biathlon gold and his first cross-country medals — and has a chance to win one more in the 4×2.5-kilometre mixed relay event on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.  He also won a silver and bronze at the Sochi Paralympics in 2014.

“This is an absolute honour and a privilege to receive the flag from my teammate, mentor and hero Brian McKeever [who carried the flag in the opening ceremony] to lead a record-setting group of Canadian athletes,” Arendz said in a press release.

“I hope the next generation of young Canadians see me carrying that flag in and are inspired the same way I was to chase their dreams.”

Canada set a new national Paralympic record with 24 medals in Pyeongchang, eclipsing the previous best of 19 from the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Canadian Paralympians earned eight gold, one silver and 15 bronze with one day of competition still remaining in South Korea.

CBC will stream the closing ceremony live on Sunday at 6 a.m. ET at CBCSports.ca and on the CBC Sports app. Described video will also be offered for the ceremony.

Arendz opened these Paralympics with a silver in the men’s 7.5 km standing biathlon. Still craving the first biathlon gold in Canadian Paralympic history, the 28-year-old from Hartsville, P.E.I., took a risk on the final shooting interval of the 12.5 km standing event and missed his first shot.

He still earned bronze despite the gamble, but that elusive gold still loomed large in his mind.

“That’s what I came here for, that gold medal,”  Arendz told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux after the event.

Arendz went on to win his first-career Paralympic cross-country medal — a bronze in the standing sprint — before finally capturing biathlon gold in the 15 km event. He shot cleanly at all four intervals to deny France’s Benjamin Daviet a golden three-peat.

CBC Sports’ Lauren Woolstencroft spoke with an excited Mark Arendz (who was briefly joined by his ski coach Robin McKeever) after Arendz won gold in the men’s biathlon 15 km standing race.1:29

“Mark has been one of the absolute standout stories of these Paralympic Games for Canada,” said Todd Nicholson, Team Canada’s chef de mission. “He is a phenomenal Canadian, athlete, and person, and we are in awe of his talent and unrelenting dedication.”

Arendz credits his improved skiing to working with idol Brian McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian and the flag-bearer from the opening ceremony. Arendz — who also won bronze in the men’s 10 km cross-country race — is in no hurry to see the 38-year-old go, but is ready to take up the mantle of Canada’s premier para nordic skier when the time comes.

“I want to be one of the best and I’ve been working towards that since I started this sport really,” Arendz told CBC Sports’ Benjamin Blum before the Games.”That’s a goal between now and before I call it a career, that I want to be able to be a contender no matter what the race, whether it’s a biathlon or a cross-country, classic or skate.”

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CBC's afternoon coverage of the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang

Click on the video player above now to watch CBC Sports’ coverage of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games from Pyeongchang, South Korea.

For described video, click on the video player below.

Watch CBC’s day 7 afternoon coverage of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea with descriptive video.0:00

CBC and Radio-Canada will offer more than 600 hours of coverage of the Paralympics. Broadcasts of the Games, which run March 9 to 18, will be available daily on CBC and Radio-Canada with live streams hosted on the CBC Sports app, as well as CBC.ca/sports/paralympics and Radio-Canada.ca/Jeuxparalympiques.

Broadcast partners Sportsnet and AMI-tv will also offer coverage of the competitions.

Daily coverage of the 10-day event on CBC will total 38 hours, with live reporting from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Canadians will also be able to keep track of the athletes through highlights shown Monday to Friday between 4 p.m and 6 p.m.

Described video will be offered on all of CBC broadcasts and online streams of the same coverage.

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CBC | Sports News

What to watch today at the Paralympics: March 13-14

Canada added three more medals to bring its total count to 10 at the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Medals will be up for grabs in the men’s slalom and cross-country skiing while Canada also looks to move closer to locking up a semifinal spot in wheelchair curling.

Canadians to watch:​​

  • Cross-country skiing, Brian McKeever, Mark Arendz, Collin Cameron, 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday

Cameron leads a group of six Canadians in the men’s sprint competition in the sitting category. Earlier in the Games, the Sudbury, Ont., native won bronze in biathlon in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sitting sprint.

Cameron spoke about winning bronze in the men’s sitting 7.5km biathlon, just 3 years after picking up the sport.0:51

Chris Klebl, Derek Zaplotinsky, Ethan Hess, Sebastien Fortier, and Yves Bourque are also competing in the sitting category.

Cindy Ouellet looks to improve on her performance in the women’s sprint competition in the sitting category (9:25 p.m. ET) after failing to finish in the 12K race. The 29-year-old is making her Winter Paralympic debut after having competed in three previous Summer Games in wheelchair basketball.  

Arendz looks for his third medal of the Games in the men’s sprint classic style in the standing category (9:48 p.m. ET). The Hartsville, P.E.I., native will surpass his total from Sochi with another podium finish.

CBC Sports’ Josh Dueck spoke with Hartsville, P.E.I. native Mark Arendz after he matched his performance at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics by claiming bronze in the biathlon men’s 12.5-kilometre standing biathlon, to go along with his silver medals in the 7.5 km event.1:19

Brittany Hudak, Emily Young, and Natalie Wilkie will compete in the women’s sprint class style in the standing category (10:07 p.m. ET). Hudak finished fifth in the 10K biathlon.   

Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian is back on the hunt for more medals. McKeever will go for his 15th career medal in the men’s sprint classic style in the visually impaired category (10:24 p.m. ET)

McKeever’s gold medal in the men’s visually impaired 20km cross-country skiing event gave him 14 career Paralympic medals, the most in Canadian history.1:13 
  • Alpine skiing: Men’s slalom, Mac Marcoux, Kurt Oatway 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native has failed to finish his last two events after winning gold in the men’s downhill race in the visually impaired category.

Marcoux and guide Jack Leith spoke with CBC’s Lauren Woolstencroft after falling during the Super-G portion of the super combined race.1:04

Marcoux’s fortunes could change in the slalom competition where he’s the defending champion.

Alexis Guimond, Braydon Luscombe, and Kirk Schornstein look for their first medal of the Games in the standing category (9:30 p.m. ET). Guimond’s best result came in the downhill competition where he was fourth.

Oatway looks to bounce back after failing to finish the first run of the men’s super combined. The 34-year-old already has a gold in the super-G.

Kurt Oatway explains how he used para-alpine skiing to regain some semblance of his former self and reclaim who he was before his injury2:19

Oatway and Alex Cairns of Squamish, B.C. will compete in the sitting category (10:30 p.m. ET)

  • Wheelchair curling, Canada vs. Neutral Paralympic Athletes, 1:35 a.m ET on Wednesday (2nd match 6:35 a.m ET vs. Slovakia)

Canada got back on track with a pair of come-from-behind wins against China and the U.S. Mark Ideson’s rink currently sits in sole possession of third place with a record of 5-2.

Mark Ideson’s Canadian rink rallied to a come-from-behind victory, by stealing a single in the extra end to defeat the United States 6-51:32

Canada has four games remaining in the round robin after which the top four teams will qualify for the semifinals. The Neutral Paralympic Athletes are right on the heels of the Canadians with a 4-3 record while the Slovakians are tied for seventh with a 3-4 record.

More than 600 hours of coverage

Broadcasts of the Games, which run March 9-18, will be available daily on CBC and Radio-Canada with live streams hosted on the CBC Sports app, as well as CBC.ca/sports/paralympics and Radio-Canada.ca/Jeuxparalympiques.

Daily coverage of the 10-day event on CBC will total 38 hours, with live reporting from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Canadians will also be able to keep track of the athletes through highlights shown Monday to Friday between 4 p.m and 6 p.m.

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Canadian hockey players embrace cost of competing at Paralympics

Liam Hickey isn’t your typical first-time Winter Paralympian. That’s because he’s already competed at the 2016 Summer Games in wheelchair basketball.

That experience — along with a silver medal from the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto — gives the 19-year-old from St. John’s a degree of maturity and poise that belies his age.

Hickey is “all-business” according to Canadian men’s coach Ken Babey, something that becomes clear when he talks about living away from the team’s core for long stretches. To compensate, he plays with his local team and trains on his own, but it comes at a price.

“It’s out of my own pocket,” Hickey says, adding that ice rental costs him about $ 150 per hour. “I try to get three to four ice times a week, which is what the guys are getting here in Ontario, so it definitely adds up quickly.”

“It’s one of the many sacrifices I’ve given. I don’t mind doing that if it means I’m going to get better.”

Becoming elite at any sport requires sacrifice in some shape or form, and Hickey is seeing the payoff from this commitment in both his on-ice performance and the recognition of his teammates and coaches.

“He has that competitive edge that we like, he brings that right away, he has an outstanding work ethic and he’s a fast, skilled player,” Babey says.

“He’s definitely a key member of this team and I think he will be too in the future.”

Fitness first

Hickey says he receives support from Sport Canada’s carding system that allows him to keep pace with his teammates in Toronto while he’s in the Avalon Peninsula.

He needs to be on top of his game in order to fit in Babey’s uptempo system, which demands that players be in peak physical condition in order to maintain a level of consistent speed over the course of a full game.

“There’s some science to what we’re doing and it relates to being fit first,” Babey says, referring to regular fitness testing that’s been going on since last June. 

“If you want to play on this team, you’re going to have to be fit because we see ourselves having to play maybe some tight games and winning those games late in the third period.”

Para Ice Hockey has come a long way since its debut at the Paralympics in 1994, including a name change. Rob Pizzo takes you inside this fast and exciting sport that is growing in popularity every day.2:02

The team has bought into the system, with captain Greg Westlake emphasizing the importance of this style of play in an increasingly competitive field following a bronze in Sochi.

“We needed to get a lot faster, we needed to get in better shape, we needed to really push that fitness component,” Westlake says.

“The other teams are fast and they spend a lot of time working on skating, so to combat that we need to skate, we need to push our bodies as much as we can, so that’s the goal with everything we do.”

‘That same hunger is back’

Hickey joined the national team two years ago and is now an indispensable member of the team.

“I think we all love playing together so it definitely makes it easier to develop the chemistry and come strong every game,” Hickey says.

The experience level on this Canadian squad varies tremendously; Westlake, Billy Bridges and Brad Bowden are the only remaining members of the 2006 squad that won Canada’s lone Paralympic gold while Hickey is younger than Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.

That experience gap doesn’t faze Babey, who preaches puck possession, collective support and being a “good team citizen.”

“[Hickey] suits our style of play and he’s added another scoring dimension to our team so other teams can’t just focus on certain guys anymore,” Babey says.

The youthful exuberance of this squad — 17-year-old forward James Dunn is the youngest Canadian Paralympian in Pyeongchang — reminds Westlake of his first Games as an 18-year-old in Turin.

“There was a hunger in that team, because nobody had won before,” Westlake says. “That same hunger is back, that same drive and it’s exciting. I want to get a gold medal for a lot of these guys, I know they deserve it.”

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CBC's morning coverage of the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang

Click on the video player above to watch CBC Sports’ morning coverage of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games from Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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Watch CBC’s day 2 morning coverage of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. With Described Video.0:00

CBC and Radio-Canada will offer more than 600 hours of coverage of the Paralympics. Broadcasts of the Games, which run March 9 to 18, will be available daily on CBC and Radio-Canada with live streams hosted on the CBC Sports app, as well as CBC.ca/sports/paralympics and Radio-Canada.ca/Jeuxparalympiques.

Broadcast partners Sportsnet and AMI-tv will also offer coverage of the competitions.

Daily coverage of the 10-day event on CBC will total 38 hours, with live reporting from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Canadians will also be able to keep track of the athletes through highlights shown Monday to Friday between 4 p.m and 6 p.m.

Described video will be offered on all of CBC broadcasts and online streams of the same coverage.

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Paralympics give athletes another chance at reaching highest level

When you meet one of Canada’s Paralympians, it’s often one of the first questions that come to mind.

How did you end up competing in the Paralympics? More specifically, how did you become disabled, what happened?

These can be uncomfortable questions but are part of the fabric of every Paralympian’s journey to the highest levels of their chosen sport.

For some athletes, their disability is all they have ever known, all they have ever lived with. For others, it occurred later in life — the victim of a freak accident or medical bad luck.

For many, competing at the highest level was never a goal, but was an emerging possibility as they became aware of the sport offered to disabled athletes.

Life changing

In 2005, Dominic Larocque joined the army. Two years later he was on a dusty road in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was in rolled over an IED (improvised explosive device).

“At that moment I lost my left leg above the knee so that changed my life forever,” Larocque recalls.

He spent the next two years in rehabilitation and acknowledges that after his life-altering injury, he was searching for what was next.

“I decided to reconnect with sport. When I was a kid, I loved hockey.”

In 2010, at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Larocque had a chance to meet members of the national Paralympic hockey team. It changed his life.

“At that moment I saw the atmosphere around the sport and I realized I just wanted to be on the ice with these guys,” Larocque says.

“Just to have a chance to play hockey again. I never even knew about sledge hockey when I got injured so when I realized I could actually play hockey again I was very excited.”

The rest is history. Larocque picked up the sport quickly and was a member of the national team that captured the world championships in 2013. He also represented Canada at the 2014 Sochi Games and will be in Pyeongchang, this time as the team’s goalie.

Larocque’s versatility and determination allowed him to switch from forward to goalie.(Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)

Success comes quickly

Kurt Oatway has been skiing since he was five years old. He skied competitively as a teenager before shifting his focus to school. It was an accident he had in his 20s that led him back to the sport, eventually becoming a key member of Canada’s Paralympic ski team.

Oatway was 23 in 2007, a geology student at the University of Saskatchewan, when his class took a field trip to Utah.

“I fell off a rock outcrop and broke my back,” he recalls. Oatway fell 12 metres, fracturing a vertebrae in his spine and suffered a spinal cord injury.

He returned to Saskatchewan to finish his degree. And as part of his rehab and physiotherapy, he started skiing again, eventually ending up in a Regina racing program run by the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS).

“I got noticed by a couple of people on the national team and they asked me how interested are you in skiing,” Oatway recalls.

He told them about his ski racing history and was invited to a series of development camps.

“I went in and I must have done something right,” Oatway says. 

Success came quickly. As a sit-skier, competing at his first-ever World Cup event in 2013, he captured a bronze medal in the slalom.

“It was easy to adjust to it because I’d had over 10 years of skiing experience,” Oatway says. “It was different but it was still familiar at the same time.”

At the Sochi Paralympic Games, he competed in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill, capturing two top-10 finishes. He is a leading contender heading into Pyeongchang.

Larocque, left, immediately knew his career path after the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Hockey magic

Tyler McGregor is still getting used to his recently acquired nickname: magic. The name emerged after McGregor’s dominating performance at the 2017 world para ice hockey championship, where Canada captured the top prize.

For McGregor, it’s been quite a journey. In 2010, he was an emerging 15-year-old triple-A hockey player when he suffered a broken leg. X-rays revealed the break was likely prompted by a form of bone cancer doctors discovered spreading through his leg, eventually causing the limb to be amputated above the knee.

“I think the most devastating part for me was not the fear of going through chemotherapy and having cancer, the most devastating part was finding out that I was going to lose my leg,” McGregor recalls.

“That terrified me because I had kind of committed my life to being a hockey player and suddenly that was kind of being taken away. And so that was the scariest part for me and by far the most emotional. As a 15, 16-year-old kid I wasn’t ready to accept that my whole career was over,” McGregor says.

He was introduced to para ice hockey in 2011 and by 2012 was a member of the national team. It was a second chance most athletes never get.

“Most people don’t get to be able to play hockey at a high level again, and I was very surprised to learn of how difficult, but at the same time how exciting the sport was.”

McGregor hopes to live up to his nickname in Pyeongchang, where he’s part of a team favoured by many to win a gold medal.

Oatway has medal aspirations for Pyeongchang. (Roger Whitney/Alpine Canada)

Paralympic state

Ina Forrest’s unlikely Paralympic journey began at Costco in Kelowna, B.C. It had been a long time since she had really been active.

Years earlier when she was 21, her life was forever altered on a B.C. highway.

“I was in a car accident. We were on our way to a volleyball tournament we were hit head on by an impaired driver,” Forrest recalls.

Injuries from the accident meant Forrest would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

“After my accident, I wasn’t in any sports. I went to university, got married, had kids and it was just a part of my life where there wasn’t really any accessible sport where I lived,” Forrest says.

That all changed when her family moved to Vernon, B.C. 

“I met a guy in Costco in Kelowna and he said ‘Have you ever thought about trying wheelchair curling?'” Forrest recalls. She had never really heard of it but was told that B.C. was hosting the upcoming nationals and was hoping to field two teams in what was a fledgling sport at the time.

McGregor, left, was one of the top performers at last year’s world para ice hockey championship. (Harry Engels/Getty Images)

“Two weeks later, I was at the selection camp and there was four women…they needed at least two of us. And so I made it onto that team and then two months later nationals were held. So it was kind of a whirlwind of getting to sort of the highest level in Canada in a three, four-month span.”

Forrest excelled at the sport and has played at the highest level ever since, becoming one of the world’s most decorated wheelchair curlers. On the Paralympic stage, Forrest has been part of a team that won gold in 2010 and 2014. She has also competed in the last 10 world championships.  In 2016, she was inducted into the Canadian curling Hall of Fame. 

“I just really enjoyed being back in competitive sport. It was just something that I felt I had all of a sudden I was missing in my life, and so I was very happy to have the opportunity to join again.”

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