Celebrating 25 years of Para Sport: Canada competes at first Parapan Am Games in 1999

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 22, 2021

Games ultimately grow leaps and bounds to become crucial step for Paralympics

Pfizer 1999

Back in 1999, the Paralympic Movement was growing but still fledgling in many parts of the world. The first ever Parapan American Games marked an important moment in growing Para sport across the Americas.  

It was a modest start in Mexico City that November. One thousand athletes from 18 countries in North, Central, and South America were present to compete in four sports: athletics, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball. In some events, a victory in Mexico meant a spot for the Paralympic Games the following summer in Sydney, Australia.

Only 15 Pan Am countries had competed three years earlier at the Paralympics in Atlanta. There were 19 in Sydney four years later and by 2016, 27 were in Rio.

Canada was part of the contingent for Mexico 1999. The team was ninth in the overall medal standings with four gold, three silver and three bronze. The highlights were gold for the women’s wheelchair basketball team and silver for the men’s team. In Sydney, those two teams would win gold.

The second Parapan Am Games in 2003 attracted 1,500 athletes from 28 nations and the Games have continued to be held every four years since, now hosted in the same city as the Pan Am Games. In 2015, Toronto hosted the biggest Parapan Ams to that date with 1,651 athletes from 28 nations. Those numbers slightly increased for Lima 2019 with 17 sports on the program.

With Santiago, Chile set to host in 2023, the Parapan Ams have blown the doors open for Central and South American countries to become part of what is now a worldwide Paralympic family.

This year, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Pfizer Canada are celebrating 25 years of supporting and promoting the Paralympic Movement together. Throughout 2021, we will look back on special sporting moments and milestones from each year of the partnership. 

Click here to read each moment so far.  


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