OTTAWA – Canada’s Para athletes not only enjoyed international success in 2022 but also lofty milestones were set, and searing breakthroughs were etched into history.
At the top of the list is Brian McKeever. The 43-year-old competed at his final of six Paralympic Games this past winter in Beijing, where he won gold medals in the three individual cross country skiing events for a fourth straight Games.
In total, he collected 20 Paralympic medals, 16 of which were gold, both Canadian records for a winter Paralympian (McKeever already held the mark before Beijing). However in Beijing he did tie German Para alpine skier Gerd Schoenfelder for the most-ever gold medals won by a male winter Paralympian.
While he has retired from competition, McKeever is still with the national team. In July, Nordiq Canada announced that McKeever, along with longtime cross-country skiing coach Bjorn Taylor, will share responsibilities for guiding Canada’s Para nordic program on the trails to 2026 and beyond.
There was also a team milestone for Canada in Para nordic skiing. It surpassed the 50-medal mark for total Paralympic medals going back to the first winter Games in 1976. The team started the Games with 45 and now has 59 after Beijing (46 in cross country and 13 in biathlon).
Here are just a few other major milestones or breakthroughs in Canadian Paralympic sport from the past year:
Perseverance pays off for women’s sitting volleyball team
Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball won the silver medal at the world championships in November in Sarajevo. It was the first Canadian medal at the worlds for either the men’s or women’s team. The final between Canada and Brazil went the five-set limit with the South Americans squeezing out the win.
The Canadians have seen constant progression since not qualifying for the 2014 worlds. It all started at the 2015 Parapan Ams in Toronto where it won bronze to gain a berth for the 2016 Paralympics, a first ever Games participation for the team.
The women placed seventh in Rio, repeated that performance at the 2018 worlds then took a giant step at Tokyo 2020 with a fourth place.
Angelena Dolezar, Anne Ferguson, Heidi Peters, Felicia Voss-Shafiq, Amber Skyrpan, Jolan Wong and Katelyn Wright were all part of that 2015 Parapan Am team in Toronto that got the program on track.
New riders inject success for Canada in Para snowboarding
Canada’s Para snowboarders created history in Beijing, winning the country’s first-ever medals in the sport since it joined the Paralympic program in 2014. It was two first-time Paralympians that accomplished the feat.
Lisa DeJong won a silver for Canada’s first podium before Tyler Turner captured the first gold, both in snowboard cross. Turner also added a bronze in banked slalom.
Mel Pemble finds her sport with double gold at Para cycling track worlds
While she had made some noise over the previous five years in Para alpine skiing, Victoria’s Mel Pemble sent sirens wailing with a double gold performance and a world record at the 2022 Para Cycling Track World Championships.
The competition took place in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, the new velodrome built for Paris 2024.
The 22-year-old breakout star was victorious in the omnium and the scratch race. She also set the world record in the non-medal 200-m flying sprint.
Turbide, Routliffe capture first world Para swimming titles
Canadian Para swimming veterans Nicolas-Guy Turbide and Tess Routliffe reached milestones at the world championships in Madeira, Portugal this past June. The Paralympian pair collected their first career world titles.
Making his fourth worlds appearance, Turbide triumphed in the men’s 100-m backstroke S13. The Quebec City native had previously claimed silver in his favourite event at last summer’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo and at the 2019 worlds in London, as well as bronze at Rio 2016.
Just over a year after suffering a serious back injury that caused her to miss Tokyo 2020, Routliffe was crowned champion in the women’s 100-m breaststroke SB7 thanks to a Canadian record time of one minute, 31.91 seconds.
Alison Levine and Iulian Ciobanu crack the boccia code with worlds medal
Alison Levine and Iulian Ciobanu, both members of the last two Paralympic Games teams, earned their first major tournament medals with bronze at last week’s world championships in the BC4 pairs event in Rio. The duo defeated Japan 3-1 in the third-place match.