Para athletics notebook: Bell Track and Field Trials

Canadian Paralympic Committee

July 02, 2024

Visually impaired Bianca Borgella sends a message about Para athlete excellence

MONTREAL – Eyes were opened when visually impaired runner Bianca Borgella competed in the able-bodied women’s 100-m sprint at the Bell Track and Field Trials on Friday night.

For the 21-year-old Borgella from Ottawa, who would win the Para final a few minutes later, she wanted to show the level of excellence Para athletes can achieve.

‘’Running in the able-bodied event is something I had to do,” said Borgella, who clocked 11.97 seconds in the race just 0.05 off her Para national record. ‘’I wanted to make a statement that Para athletes could compete side by side with able-bodied athletes. Being able to make the semis was a goal of mine.’’

Borgella was born with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare type of inherited eye disorder that causes severe vision loss at birth. However some vision does return and eventually stabilizes at a certain level.

Billy Bridges shows his versatility

Billy Bridges is here?” is a refrain that was heard a few times at the trials last week. Yes, one of Canada’s greatest Para ice hockey players ever, six-time winter Paralympian Bridges won gold, silver and bronze in the throwing events at the trials.

He is in his second year with the national team. In 2023, he competed at the Parapan American Games and was fourth in javelin.

Born with Spina Bifida, Bridges’s sports versatility is already well known. He was also a nationally ranked wheelchair basketball player and played the sport professionally in Europe.

For track and field, the 40-year-old Summerside, PEI native said he was inspired by his wife Sami Jo Small, an Olympic gold medallist with Canada’s women’s national hockey team in 2002. She threw javelin, discus and hammer for Stanford University in NCAA competition.

“It’s something special to be around such a big event and see all the Canadian pride around,’’ said Bridges on Thursday night after his silver in discus. He also took gold in javelin and bronze in shotput. ‘’Track and field in Canada is very prestigious. It’s so awesome to be part of something so inclusive, seeing all the different disciplines and disabilities. I love it. I love being a part of this.’’

From shotput to football to shotput for Katie Pegg

Canada’s Para athletics team in Paris will likely be comprised of several newcomers and that includes 20-year-old shot putter Katie Pegg of Toronto. She met the qualifying standard with the top result in the F46 class.

Pegg, born without a radial bone in her right forearm, first threw shot put as a youngster, then dropped that ball for an eight-year career in football in which she was a defensive lineman. She was the only female athlete in the league, playing for the Scarborough Thunder high school team.

Now at St. Mary’s University in Halifax in biology and forensic sciences (she played one year of football with the Halifax Explosion women’s football team) she returned to “shot” to show the capabilities of people with disabilities.

‘’I never thought I would do it this year,” she said, moments after her win. ‘’I went back to shot because I wanted to make a difference at my school, leave my mark.

‘’That’s just who I am, I want to inspire the next generation and know they can do anything they put their minds too.’’

One more chance for Guillaume Ouellet

One of Canada’s greatest middle-distance runners, visually impaired Guillaume Ouellet of Victoriaville, Que. says he is possibly down to his last chance to make the 2024 Paralympic Games team.

Ouellet, a two-time world champion in the 5000m, still needs to meet the qualifying standard in the event. His last opportunity is later this month at a meet in Ottawa.

‘’It wasn’t a very good performance for me,’’ said Ouellet, who clocked 15:27.59 for the win in his category which was one half of the qualifying process. ‘’But I know I have all the tools to get there and I tend to perform better when it gets down to those tight pressure moments.’’

Brent Lakatos misses trials due to rib injury

Brent Lakatos says he will be ready for the Paralympic Games at the end of August despite a fractured rib which kept him out of the trials.

He was injured in May while training and it also forced him to miss the Grand Prix events in June. He met the qualifying standard times last year with gold in the 800 and silver in the 400.

He received an injury exemption and therefore has met the standard for a sixth career Paralympic Games.

14 Para athletes meet standard

A total of 14 Para athletes met the standard to qualify for the team competing at the Paralympic Games this summer:
Charlotte Bolton, Tillsonburg, Ont., Women’s F41 discus
Bianca Borgella, Ottawa, Women’s T13 100 metres
Anthony Bouchard, Quebec City, Men’s T52 100 metres
Renee Foessel, Orangeville, Ont., Women’s F38 discus
Cody Fournie, Toronto, Men’s T51 100 metres
Zach Gingras, Markham, Ont., Men’s T38 400 metres
Sheriauna Haase, Toronto, Women’s T47 200 metres
Nate Riech, Victoria, Men’s T38 1,500 metres
Julia Hanes, Windsor, Ont., Women’s F33 shot put
Katie Pegg, Toronto, Women’s F46 shot put
Amanda Rummery, Edmonton, T46 400 metres
Austin Smeenk, Oakville, Ont., Men’s T34 100 metres, 800 metres
Greg Stewart, Kamloops, B.C., Men’s F46 shot put
Noah Vucsics, Calgary, Men’s T20 long jump
Jesse Zesseu, Men’s F37 discus

The final list of athletes competing for Canada in Para athletics will be announced later in July.

The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will begin with the Opening Ceremony on August 28 and continue through September 8, with coverage of the Games on CBC and CBC Sports and Radio-Canada.

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