Toronto Star: 100 Days: A Parapan Am primer

This article was originally published on the Toronto Star website.

The Toronto Parapan Am Games will be the largest ever with more than 1,600 para-athletes from 28 countries. Canadian to watch: Priscilla Gagné. The Ontario native won a bronze medal earlier this year at a World Cup stacked with competitors from around the globe.

STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR Swimmer Benoit Huot has won 19 Paralympic medals.


Swimmer Benoit Huot has won 19 Paralympic medals.

In 100 days, Toronto will be flooded with high-performance athletes in sports rarely seen, from near-silent goalball to wheelchair rugby, a sport so rough it’s nicknamed murderball.

The Toronto Parapan Am Games from Aug. 7-15 will be the largest ever held with more than 1,600 para-athletes from 28 countries.

A few things to know about the upcoming Parapan Ams:

  • There are 15 sports, including athletics, archery, boccia, cycling (road and track), five-a-side football, seven-a-side football, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.
  • Each event is a Paralympic qualifier for the 2016 Rio Games, so the best athletes throughout the Americas and Caribbean will be here.
  • Tickets range from $20 to $35 for adults, with youth and senior tickets starting at $10.
  • Most unique sport: Goalball. Unlike other parasports, this one isn’t an adapted version of an able-bodied sport; it’s a team event specifically designed for the blind. Teams of three face off on an indoor court with tactile lines and a ball with bells inside. They try to score on each other’s net while throwing their bodies to the floor to protect their net. Think reverse dodge ball with a side of bowling.

Canadian to watch: Doug Ripley. The British Columbia native played at the 2012 London Olympics, where Canada finished 10th.

  • Most familiar: Swimming. Athletes, separated into classes according to their disabilities, race freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly from 50 metres to 400 and relay events.

Canadian to watch: Benoit Huot. The Quebec native is a 19-time Paralympic medallist, including nine golds, and was Canada’s flag bearer at the London 2012 Paralympic closing ceremonies.

  • Most violent: Wheelchair rugby was created in Canada by a group of quadriplegic athletes from Winnipeg looking for an alternative to wheelchair basketball that better suited players with reduced hand and arm function. In this fast-paced game collisions between wheelchairs are frequent, encouraged really, as each side tries to control the ball.

Canadian to watch: Zak Madell. The Alberta native’s performance at the London Paralympics was integral to Canada’s semi-final upset of the top-ranked American team and silver medal win.

  • Most accurate: Archery. In this test of concentration, accuracy and strength archers use a recurve bow to shoot targets 70 metres away and a compound bow to shoot targets 50 metres. Athletes may shoot from a standing position or a wheelchair.

Canadian to watch: Karen Van Nest. The Ontario native is a four-time Paralympian who switched from shooting to archery just prior to the 2012 London Games.

  • Most close-up: Judo. This event is contested by athletes with a visual impairment so judokas have contact with their opponent before the start of the match. Points are awarded for various throws and holds throughout the matches, which are five minutes for men and four for women.