World record holders Riech, Foessel, Lakatos lead Canada at world Para athletics championships

Canadian Paralympic Committee

July 07, 2023

More than half the squad making worlds debut, July 8-17 in Paris


World record holders Nate Riech of Victoria, Brent Lakatos of Dorval, Que., and Renee Foessel of Barrie, Ont. lead a 25-member Canadian team at the World Para Athletics Championships which starts Saturday and runs until July 17 in Paris.

This is one of the biggest events in Para sport outside major Games.

The French capital is being invaded by 1,330 athletes from 107 countries. There are a total of 171 events over the 10 days of competition. In addition, there are over 1,000 team personnel, 200 judges and 1,500 volunteers, 10 percent of which have a disability.

These worlds will also be the first opportunity for athletes to achieve direct qualification slots for their country for Paris 2024.

The Opening Ceremony is on Saturday, then the following days of competition are comprised of morning and evening sessions.

The last world championships were held in 2019 with Canada earning three gold, two silver and a bronze. It improved to eight medals at Tokyo 2020 (held in 2021) with 2-4-2.  This year, 13 of the 25 team members will be competing at their first worlds.

But don’t let that inexperience fool you. In the current world rankings, 14 Canadians head to the worlds in the top-three including six newcomers.

Lakatos, at his seventh worlds, is the team veteran and is again in contention for a multi-medal performance in wheelchair racing. He is scheduled to compete in the men’s T53 400m, 800m and 1500m as he looks to increase his 15-medal career haul at worlds so far. He took four silver in Tokyo including in the 400m and 800m.

Other wheelchair racers to watch for are Austin Smeenk of Mississauga, Ont., Anthony Bouchard of Quebec City, and Cody Fournie of Victoria in the men’s races and Nandini Sharma of Brampton, Ont. in the women’s events.

Smeenk has been one of Canada’s hottest racers heading into the worlds. At the Swiss Grand Prix, one of the highlight events of the Para athletics season, he won gold in the T34 400m and broke Americas records in the 100m and 800m.

Riech, almost unbeatable since he arrived on the scene in 2018 in the men’s T38 1500m, enters as the reigning Paralympic and Parapan Am Games champion and defending world champion in the event. One of his toughest opponents could be his teammate, Paralympic medallist Liam Stanley of Victoria.

“My expectation is to win and nothing else,” Riech said. “At the end of the day, I can be beaten. But I think if I put together my best race possible, it’s going to be pretty tough to beat me.”

Other ambulatory runners for Canada are T64 Paralympic bronze medallist Marissa Papaconstantinou of Toronto in the women’s T64 100m and 200m, visually impaired athlete Bianca Borgella of Ottawa, Sheriauna Haase of Toronto, and Amanda Rummery and Natalie Thirsk, both of Edmonton.

Borgella set world-leading times of 12.17 seconds in the women’s T13 100m and 25.26 seconds in the 200m in London, Ont. on May 28.

“I’m really excited to have a world lead, but I’m also just nervous, because now a lot of attention will be on me,” Borgella said. “I remind myself that that means my training’s working, everything’s working. I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”

Papaconstantinou, Rummery, and Haase all have top-three world leading times as well entering worlds.

Canada fields some outstanding visually impaired runners with 2015 middle distance world champion Guillaume Ouellet of Victoriaville, Que., George Quarcoo and his guide France John of Toronto, and David Johnson of Victoria.

Also watch for T20 world junior champion Michael Barber of Victoria, Paralympic Games bronze medallist Zachary Gingras of Markham, Ont., and Thomas Normandeau of Peace River, Alta.

Foessel, one of three Canadians at their fifth worlds, set the world record in the women’s discus in 2021 at 37.83 metres and is eyeing a third career world championship medal in Paris. She is currently ranked second internationally.

Other women discus throwers to watch are Paralympian Charlotte Bolton of Tillsonburg, Ont., veteran Jen Brown of Calgary and Sarah Mickey of Redcliff, Alta. Mickey is also entered in shotput and is ranked second internationally in the event.

On the men’s side Jesse Zesseu of Toronto, one of 13 Canadians making their worlds debut, competes in long jump and F37 discus in which he’s the number-two seed. Rounding out the squad are David Bambrick of Wolfville, N.S. in shotput and Noah Vucsics of Calgary with the best long jump in the world this season in the men’s T20 at 7.21 metres.

CBC will be streaming the event on, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports app for mobile devices. The schedule is available here:

More information: 2023 World Para Athletics Championships – Athletics Canada

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