While sunshine was scarce in Lima, Peru during the 2019 Parapan Am Games, there were many rays of hope for Canada as its young athletes performed beyond expectations.
A total of 61 Canadian athletes in Lima, including individuals in team sports, reached the podium in their first Parapan Am appearance including nine teenagers.
The most prolific Canadian athlete was 16-year-old Para swimmer Arianna Hunsicker with five bronze medals (four in individual events, one in a team medley). Like her idol, Aurélie Rivard, Hunsicker has a hand disability and competes in the S10 class.
Another teenage swimmer, Nicholas Bennett, burst onto the international stage in Lima as well at the age of 15. He notched four medals with three gold and a silver. Two years later he made his Paralympic Games debut in Tokyo, breaking Canadian records in his four events and reaching three finals.
Hunsicker and Bennett were among 16 Canadian multi-medallists at the Games.
A first-year Parapan Am Games team member also made history.
Wheelchair tennis player Rob Shaw became the first Canadian to win a singles event in the sport at a major Games by defeating world No. 2 American star David Wagner in the final.
There was more racket made in Para badminton, as Olivia Meier and Pascal Lapointe finished competition 4-0 in mixed doubles to win the gold medal. It was Canada’s first gold in the sport at a major Games, with Para badminton making its maiden Parapan Am appearance in Lima before its Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
After a nine-medal performance at the 2016 Rio Games, a completely different Para cycling squad duplicated that performance, comprised mainly of NextGen riders. The team was highlighted by Parapan Am rookie Carla Shibley, alongside pilot Meghan Lemiski, who capped off competition with a gold in the women’s visually impaired road race on the last day of the Games before carrying the Canadian flag in the Closing Ceremony.
“This experience of having my first Games, I've had the best experience possible so far,” said the four-time Lima Parapan Am medallist Shibley at the time. “I couldn't have asked for it to be better.”
Canada marched 60 times to the podium in Lima with 17 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze.
“I think the experience gained here will prove to be so valuable for many of our athletes,” said Canada’s chef de mission Stephanie Dixon, a 19-time Paralympic Games medallist, at the conclusion of the Parapan Am Games.
It also continues to give Canada plenty of depth to look forward to going into future Games.
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.