The Canadian Paralympic Committee is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of women on International Women’s Day. Canadian women have been trailblazers for Paralympic sport both in Canada and around the world. Here are some examples:
Canada’s best-known and most accomplished female Paralympian. The wheelchair racer won 21 medals including 14 gold in five Paralympic Games appearances. In 2008, she received the prestigious Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year (male or female). She retired after the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, but hasn’t missed a beat in championing the cause of Paralympic sport. Her latest assignment is Chef de Mission for Team Canada at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
This past November, the Honorable Carla Qualtrough was named the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Qualtrough won her riding in Delta, B.C. as a member of the Liberal Party which swept to victory in the federal election in October. Ever since retiring from a successful para-swimming career in 1988, the visually-impaired Qualtrough has forged an impressive career as a human rights lawyer and politician which has aligned itself to the Paralympic movement and issues for people with disabilities.
Aurélie Rivard has established herself as one of Canada’s top Paralympic athletes for Rio 2016. In 2015, the 19-year-old delivered great performances and she is hungry for more. Rivard won the S10 50-m and 400-m freestyles at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. She then went on to dominate the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, winning a record seven medals, including six gold. Rivard set six Parapan Am Games marks, two Americas records, and a new world best (59.17) in the S10 100-m freestyle. Out of the pool she is establishing her name as well and co-hosted the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Annual General Meeting this past November.
Miranda Biletski is currently the only woman on the Team Canada wheelchair rugby team and is one of only a handful of women to play the sport at an elite level worldwide. At the 2014 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, she became the first woman to play in a gold medal game at a World Championships. Now, she’s training hard for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Am Games, where she hopes to become the first woman to win a Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair rugby.
Danielle Kisser has overcome recent challenges to put herself in contention for a spot on the Rio Paralympic Games para-swimming team. She was born with a growth-stunting disease called achondroplasia dwarfism. A member of the 2013 world championship team, Kisser was in a wheelchair for nearly a year and a half after undergoing bone surgery on both legs in October 2014. The hard-working 19-year-old is determined to pursue her para-swimming dreams until she steps on the podium at the Paralympic Games.
Cindy Ouellet is already an impact Paralympic athlete on the wheelchair basketball court and is also working hard to make her mark for people with disabilities off the field of play as well. The Team Canada member graduated in exercise science, earned a Masters in exercise physiology and played wheelchair basketball for the University of Alabama. She received an academic scholarship and is currently studying for a doctorate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in bio-medical engineering. Her ambition is to do research for prosthesis for amputees and work in neuromuscular technology and nanotechnology.
Rio Paralympics features record number of women events: Around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries will travel to Rio to compete in 526 medal events in 22 different sports. Of the total number of athletes set to take part, approximately 1,650 will be women - a 9.9 per cent increase on London 2012 and more than double the 790 who took part in the Atlanta 1996 Games. The women will compete in 224 medal events, equating to 43 per cent of all medal events and a 12 per cent increase on London, with para-athletics, para-cycling and para-swimming and new sports para-canoe and para-triathlon all providing additional events for women.