OTTAWA – This year’s focus in the Para sport world was the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in March. But while Canada won a team record 28 medals at the Games, our summer athletes kept that winning fire alight with seven world titles as well.
As was the case at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Canada’s Para cyclists led the charge internationally in summer sport.
At the world road championships this past August in Italy, Canada won seven medals including four gold. The victors were Shelley Gautier of Toronto in both the time trial and road race in the women’s tricycle event while Tristen Chernove of Cranbrook, B.C. and Michael Sametz of Calgary added one win apiece in their road race and time trial, respectively.
Chernove and Ross Wilson of Edmonton added a silver each in their time trial races. Alex Hyndman of Morpeth, Ont., won Canada’s first medal of the competition with a bronze in the men’s handcycle time trial.
Back in March at the world track championships, the Canadians collected four medals. Chernove took gold, silver and bronze, and Wilson added a silver.
In September, Kyle Fredrickson of Victoria and Andrew Todd of Ottawa became the first ever world champions in the new PR3 boat class at the Para rowing world championships in Bulgaria. While it is not yet a Paralympic Games class, the result definitely augurs well for Canada’s fours team in Tokyo.
Jeremy Hall of Edmonton added at silver in the PR2 men’s singles event.
Also in September, 21-year-old Stefan Daniel of Calgary collected a third global crown at the Para triathlon world championships in Gold Coast, Australia, successfully defending his title. It was already a third career world championship triumph for Daniel, one of the bright young stars of the sport.
Priscilla Gagné of Montreal won a remarkable bronze medal in women’s 52 kilos at the Para judo world championships held this past October in Portugal. Gagné was the only athlete out of all the women’s weight divisions who was totally blind (B1 class) to make it on the podium. In her weight category there were four new entries, all with international able-bodied experience, and she also beat the top Russian entry that was not at the Rio 2016 Games because of the doping ban.
Two of Canada’s top medal producing sports, Para swimming and Para athletics, didn’t have world championships this year but there were some notable moments.
In Para athletics, Brent Lakatos of Dorval, Que., made a commitment to marathon racing in 2018 and it paid off with his first career victory in in the event at the Berlin Marathon. He upset Marcel Hug of Switzerland, the defending event champion and Paralympic Games champion.
One of the breakthrough stories of the year was Nathan Riech of Victoria who broke world records in the T38 800m and 1500m on Canada Day weekend at the Berlin Grand Prix.
At the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, wheelchair racer Alexandre Dupont of Montreal blemished a farewell race for Australian triple Paralympic Games champion Kurt Fearnley as he upset him to win gold in the 1500m.
At the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships, the Canadian delegation tallied an impressive 14 gold, 10 silver and 16 bronze while setting 24 personal-best times including one world, three Americas and 10 national records. Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., led the charge with a world record in the S10 400m freestyle en route to a triple gold performance.
Canada’s best performance in summer team sports was at the world goalball championships. The national women’s team fell just short in its bid for an early ticket to the 2020 Paralympic Games finishing fourth overall. The Canadian men and women will get another opportunity to qualify at the 2019 Parapan American Games.