BIRMINGHAM, England – Canada’s Para athletes are making their mark after the first five days at the Commonwealth Games, led by a gold for Nicolas-Guy Turbide in Para swimming.
However the first Para athlete to stand out at the Games was veteran wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy, Canada’s co-flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony with weightlifter Maude Charron.
The very next day, Cassidy would place fourth in the wheelchair marathon on what he described as one of the toughest courses he had ever raced on.
In the pool, Turbide took gold in the closest race of the Games so far.
The two-time Paralympian clocked a Games record and Canadian record for the S13 category, posting a 24.32 in the men’s 50-m freestyle for the visually impaired. He edged Stephen Clegg of Scotland by a mere 0.01 seconds (24.33) while Jacob Templeton of Australia was third in 24.47.
‘’I executed the race plan exactly the way I wanted to,’’ said Turbide, silver medallist in the 100-m backstroke at the Tokyo Paralympic Games last summer. ‘’I had just one key word in my head which was to keep my head down in the last 15 metres and touch the wall first.
‘’I usually struggle with that and keep my head up too much, but I didn’t do that and that’s what got me on top on the podium.’’
There was no preliminary or semifinal for the event, but Turbide was ready.
‘’It’s all about experience,’’ said Turbide, who is based at the Club de Natation Region de Quebec. ‘’I had everything I had done in the past with me in international meets. I knew I would be ready. Today was probably the longest day of my day of my life waiting for that race.’’
Camille Bérubé added a bronze in the women’s SB6 100-m breaststroke in the final race of her career. The three-time Paralympian clocked a personal best 1:43.81. Danielle Kisser was fourth in 1:50.04.
‘’With the two girls from England in the race I could feed off the vibe,’’ said Bérubé, a national team member since 2009, competing at her first Commonwealth Games. ‘’To live that experience in my last race was absolutely incredible. It felt right to finish here at an inclusive Games and hopefully there’ll be more events like this.’’
In Para triathlon, Jessica Tuomela and her guide Emma Skaug etched their names in the history books as the first Canadians to podium in the sport at the Games, winning the bronze on Sunday in the women’s visually impaired race.
“I don’t actually have words. It’s two sports later and six major Games later, and to be able to have claim to that is pretty incredible,” said Tuomela.
The former Paralympic silver medallist in swimming, who began competing in triathlons nine years after calling it a career in the pool, had the performance of her life in the three-sport discipline. Tuomela, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and her new Victoria-based guide, Skaug, clocked 1:15:12.
“We executed all three disciplines the way we wanted to. The goal was to go out, be steady and get in a rhythm and stay there,” said Tuomela who turns 39 this week.
“We wanted to be in a nice position together in the water. As a completely blind athlete that can be really challenging. I can only use the side of my body to figure out where Emma is and that takes away from the forward momentum. The course gave us a bunch of left turns which we had to adjust for yesterday because Emma was on the inside, but we did really well there,” added Tuomela.
In 3X3 wheelchair basketball, a new event at the Games, both Canada’s men’s and women’s teams will play for gold on Tuesday.
The athletics competition gets into full swing later this week.
With files from Athletics Canada, Swimming Canada, Triathlon Canada