Enthusiastic opening for the biggest Parapan Games...
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Aug 07, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Enthusiastic opening for the biggest Parapan Games ever

The best para-athletes from the Americas head to York University for the ceremony


It was clear to everyone who attended the opening ceremony of the 2015 Parapan Am Games that each athlete had achieved something incredible and historic.

“The impact you make will be remembered forever, because you have competition in your blood and you won’t be denied opportunity,” said Saad Rafi, CEO of Toronto2015.

The sun was bright but mild — perfect weather to enjoy the brand-new open-air athletics stadium, where more than 1,600 athletes from 28 countries gathered to celebrate the opening of the largest Parapan Am Games ever. Team Canada, with 216 competitors, was led by flag-bearer Marco Dispaltro, who has muscular dystrophy and is ranked no. 1 in boccia in his class.

The breakout sport of the competition is wheelchair rugby, popularized by the documentary Murderball, which will make its Parapan Am Games debut this year. The sport is played by mixed-gender teams and, like rugby, it’s a contact sport known for violence, with players often getting tipped out of their wheelchairs.

Like the opening ceremony for the Pan Am Games, Friday night’s spectacle included an elaborately choreographed multicultural dance routine and a musical performance. It wasn’t Kanye, but 18-year-old Canadian pop musician Francesco Yates, who has earned props from R&B megaproducer Pharrell Williams, delivered a funk-tinged, upbeat performance perfectly suited to the spirit of the night.

During the parade of nations, the audience could not be contained — people left their seats to line the gate separating spectators from sportsmen and women and cheered the athletes on. Some people in the crowd had personal connections to the athletes in the competition, and tonight’s ceremony had special meaning.

Della Croteau is here along with her extended family to cheer on her niece, Anne Fergusson, who plays for the Canadian women’s sitting volleyball team. When not competing, Fergusson, 19, studies engineering at Queen’s University, but it’s sports that Croteau says has introduced her to so many amazing people.

“She has met an incredible group of women and men who are living their full potential,” Croteau says. “They’re role models.”

Toronto Star

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