OTTAWA – There are only three Canadians competing in the two combat sports – judo and taekwondo – at the Parapan American Games, but they all are medal contenders in their respective events.
In Para judo, a sport for visually impaired athletes, both Priscilla Gagné of Sarnia, Ont. and Justin Karn of Guelph, Ont., are going for gold.
Gagné, 33, is the reigning Pan American champion in her 52kg class after her victory at the continental championships last year in Calgary. It was the first major title of her career and happened just a few weeks after a earning a bronze medal at the world championships.
She is also looking to improve on her silver from four years ago in Toronto where she was one of two Canadian medallists in the sport. In her Paralympic Games debut in 2016, she was fifth.
In 2019, the highlight so far for Gagné was a silver at the IBSA Paralympic qualifier. She lost in the final to the Paralympic Games champion and the Canadian was the only entrant who was fully blind.
The sport made its Parapan Am Games debut in Rio in 2007. Canada won its first Parapan Am medals in Para judo at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara with three bronze including one from Karn. A year later he would be seventh at the London Paralympic Games. Last year in Calgary, Karn won the Pan Am crown as well in the men’s 60-kilogram division.
Brazil won seven medals in judo at the Toronto Games and shared the most gold total with two along with Mexico and Cuba.
The sole entry for Canada in Para taekwondo, a new sport at the Games which will also make its Paralympic Games debut in 2020, is Anthony Cappello of Montreal.
He’s enjoyed a super season in 2019 so far. He took silver at the world championships early in the year and just last month won his first major international event with gold in the men’s 61 kilos at the Asian Para Championships.
The 28-year-old with a disability in both arms emerged on the international stage in 2017 with a bronze at worlds.
The judo competition is scheduled for August 24-25, with both Gagné and Karn set to compete on August 24. Para taekwondo runs August 30-31, with Cappello hitting the mat on August 30.
Canada is sending a team of 151 athletes to the Lima 2019 Parapan Am Games, taking place August 23 to September 1. For more information on the Canadian Parapan Am Team, please visit Paralympic.ca/lima2019.