What a summer it's been for Canadian athletes! First we had a stunning, record-setting Olympics. Then that was followed by the Paralympic Games, where the country's best para athletes have put on a real show.
Now, those Summer Games have, too, come to a close. The Canadian team finished with 21 medals: 5 gold, 10 silver, and 6 bronze. It wasn't quite the amount captured in Rio in 2016, but this also wasn't your typical Paralympics.
Many athletes found it difficult to train as usual—or at all—due to the pandemic. But after such a troubling year (the Olympics and Paralympics were both supposed to happen last summer in 2020), athletes were just grateful to have the chance to compete. Everyone on the team gave it all that they had, but let's look at a few people whose efforts really stood out.
Coming into the Games, it was predicted that Aurélie Rivard would make waves. She followed up winning Canada's first gold of the Games (in the 100m freestyle S10) with another gold in the 400m freestyle S10. (The 'S10' is the event's classification—all para sporting events have a category based on the nature of the participating athletes' disability.) Her final total was five medals, and in both of her gold medal events she set world records.
Not to be outdone, her teammate Danielle Dorris also set world records (yes, plural!) on her way to gold medal glory. In the 50m butterfly S7 final, she swam to a time of 32.99 seconds, a new world standard—this after already setting a new world record in her earlier race. She left Tokyo with a silver medal in the 100m backstroke as well.
Track and field magic
Canada's flag bearer in Sunday's closing ceremony was wheelchair track star Brent Lakatos, who was a model of consistent excellence. He won not one, not two, not three, but FOUR silver medals! These were in the 100m, 400m, 800m, and 5,000m. It is rare for a track athlete to be good in short, middle, and long distance events because they all require different talents. But with a total of 11 medals won in his entire Paralympic career, it's pretty clear that Lakatos is a different athlete!
Another standout—literally—was gold medal-winner Greg Stewart. The 7'2" athlete towered over his competitors and set a world record in the shot put with a throw of 16.75 metres. At 35 years old, Stewart has played many other sports in his career, including basketball and volleyball, but he found a new home in the F46 shot put. Now he's a world champ!
The sight of his embracing his fellow medal winners in the event and members of his team was just one of many moments that drove home how much these athletes valued getting to compete in Tokyo. And if you found that you loved it, too, we have good news. The 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympics Games in Beijing are less than a year away!
Hitting the courts
Of course, as awesome as the Paralympics were, they weren't the only international event happening. In New York City, the second week of tennis' fourth and final Grand Slam is underway. (The Grand Slams are the biggest events in the sport.) Fans of Canada's athletes will remember that this is the tournament that Bianca Andreescu won in 2019. Sadly, Bianca was eliminated last night in an epic match that lasted 3 1/2 hours and ended at 2:19am! But as the quarterfinals begin, Canadian hopes are still alive and well today in two players: Felix Auger-Alliasime and Leylah Fernandez.
Identified as a great young teenage talent, Felix has been steadily improving all the time. Now 21, he's in the first back-to-back Grand Slam quarterfinals of his career (he did this in Wimbledon earlier this year). Tonight, he'll play in Arthur Ashe Stadium (the biggest tennis stadium in the world) against another even younger rising star, 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. Alcaraz has already beaten the world's number three player, Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas, so Felix will need to be careful.
And speaking of teenagers knocking off top-ranked players, let's talk about Leylah! Fernandez has been a promising player for a while, but this is her breakout moment. In the third round, she defeated Japan Naomi Osaka, the US Open's defending champion. Then in her next match, she beat a three-time Grand Slam winner in Germany's Angelique Kerber. And it doesn't get any easier for her today—her opponent is the 2019 U.S. Open semi-finalist, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina.
Throughout her run so far, Fernandez has won crowd's over with her comeback victories and now-signature single-raised arm celebrations after key points. Will she get to raise her arm one more time this afternoon? We'll soon know!