Canada’s visually impaired athletes in medal hunt at Parapan American Games

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 16, 2023

Goalball gold worth trip to Paris 2024 for men and women; Para judokas fight Sunday


Photo: women’s goalball team with CPC Mascot CODA

SANTIAGO – As salsa music pumped in the background Tuesday evening and almost everyone seemed in a celebration mood at the Athletes’ Village Welcoming Ceremony, Canada’s men’s and women’s goalball teams were mingling amongst themselves.

There were no fist pumps, cheering, only polite applause.

Their focus was palpable.

Both teams are here to do a job and it’s obvious: they mean business. The goal: win a gold medal at the Parapan American Games and book a ticket to the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. It won’t be easy for either team.

On paper the women stand the best chance. They were fourth at the world championships last year and at the World Games in 2023. They field one of the most experienced teams in the world. All six were at the 2020 Paralympics. Amy Burk of Charlottetown, a four-time Paralympian and Whitney Bogart of Marathon, Ont. are both headed to their fourth Parapan Ams.

‘’We’re defensively a strong team and we definitely have the offence to bring with it and so overall we are a strong team,” said Bogart.

‘’We have the experience to bring forward and most of us have been to various Games. We know each other really well on court and we can really play off each other.”

The Canadians are currently ranked third in the Americas, but at the 2022 worlds they were the top-ranked Americas team. The U.S. was sixth, Brazil ninth, Argentina 13th and Mexico 15th. Canada then finished just behind Brazil at the World Games. The Canadian women have won bronze at the last three Parapan Ams while Brazil has taken the gold at the last two.

Other team members are Emma Reinke of St. Thomas, Ont., Canada’s top scorer in Tokyo, Brieann Baldock of Edmonton, the only player with no Parapan Am experience, Meghan Mahon of Timmins, Ont., and Maryam Salehizadeh of Vancouver.

Goalball is one of two sports Canada is entered in that are solely for the visually impaired at the Parapan Ams. In goalball, players throw the ball using a bowling motion into the other team’s net while the opposing players try to block the ball with their bodies. The 1.25 kilogram ball has noise bells which help orientate the players.

On the men’s side, Canada has notched bronze at the last two Parapan Ams and was 13th at the worlds but also field some experience with Paralympians Ahmad Zeividavi and Doug Ripley, both of Vancouver, and Blair Nesbitt of Edmonton.

Brice Parker of Edmonton, one of three players with no Games experience, is excited to build on his first international experiences.

‘’I’m nervous and honoured,” said Parker, 25, who has played the sport for 12 years. ‘’I’m looking forward to all the hard work and competition. I’ve been at some international events but nothing of this high calibre.’’

Also at their first Games are Aaron Prevost of Cornwall, Ont. and Mason Smith of Middleton, N.S.

Brazil heads into the tournament as world champions and favourites. Canada, the U.S., Argentina, and Colombia were also at the worlds in 2022.

Both the Canadian teams open their preliminary round tournaments on Saturday against the U.S.

Two athletes in Para judo

Canada has two athletes in Para judo, also a sport for the visually impaired, with Justin Karn of Montreal in men’s 60 kilos and Christina Mowatt of Burnaby, B.C. in women’s 57 kilos.

Karn, 42, is headed to his fourth straight Parapan Ams. He won the bronze in 2011, was seventh in 2015 and fifth in 2019. He won the Pan Am Championships Para judo title in 2018, was a bronze medallist in 2020, and last year in Edmonton took silver.

Mowatt looks to gain more valuable international experience after competing at the 2022 World Championships where she won her first two bouts on route to a fifth-place finish. Santiago is her first major Games.

Both Canadians fight on Sunday November 19.

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