Every Olympics – Summer or Winter, I get excited. The energy from the athletes, their families, our country comes together to support Team Canada.
With the cancellation last year, it was beyond disappointing for sport, athletes and their families, with a sliver of hope that if we hold on, keep training and stay focused, we can beat the virus and compete on the world stage.
And so lockdowns, vaccines, and strength helped us ensure Tokyo 2020 Olympics could go on, in 2021.
And I dare say, the wait made it all that more worth it to see the determination, the millisecond wins and the pride.
I, like many Canadians, was beaming with pride as I watched out medal count go up and up – the highest it has been since 1984.
Chills ran through me as I watched the shoot-out of the Canadian women’s soccer team. Or the final lap of Maggie MacNeil. The speed of Andre De Grasse. The outstanding performance of Damian Warner. And, our most decorated Olympian, Penny Oleksiak, take three more medals home.
According to Team Canada’s statement, Team Canada left Japan with more first and more records than before.
“This extraordinary group of Canadian athletes will always be remembered not only for their performances and results here in Tokyo but also for their determination and ability to adapt,” said Eric Myles, COC Chief Sport Officer, in the statement.
And excitedly – the fun continues as our Paralympians compete Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, with 22 sports, against 161 other countries and regions.
In total, 4,237 Paralympians will take the stage in 13 days of competition. Team Canada is supporting 128 athletes and their guides will compete for gold. We are in for a good show with 55 athletes set to make their Paralympic debut and 26 Paralympic medalists.
The Team will be supported in Tokyo by 113 coaches and support staff.
Strict COVID-19 measures are in place, with the Canadian Paralympic Team making tough decisions to ensure their athletes are safe.
Chair of the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council Tony Walby, a former able-bodied Canadian Judo team member, before losing his sight at 35 and becoming a Paralympian and competition at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games said he has been sending all the athletes messages and support leading up to the games.
“I know a lot of them personally. I have been saying for them to have a safe journey, to stay safe. And not let the distraction of COVID take their focus away. To remember that they are at the Paralympic Games and to take that moment and soak it in,” he said.
Retiring after the Rio Games, Walby, an Ottawa resident, is the athlete director for the Paralympic Team and was elected chair of the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council in 2018. Walby, a strong advocate for the athletes, said this year’s Paralympics would be like none other.
“I got to bring my family. At Rio, I knew I was retiring after and it was phenomenal to know you have your family in the stands. These athletes do not get to have their families there. It is a surreal moment to compete, and know your family is there with you is part of this,” Walby said. “But these athletes are going because they are some of the greatest athletes in their sport. This is the ultimate – you are there because you love your sport. You are there because you are competing. I applaud these athletes to deal with what they have dealt with, and to make this journey.”
Walby added Team Canada has a strong chance at taking home several medals, but he said he doesn’t like to make predictions.
“I will say this – we have an amazing Paralympic Team. They are the most focused and inspirational in the world.
They trained, and did not get locked down, they kept themselves and their communities to stay safe. I am extremely proud of our team. The medals don’t matter – getting all these athletes there was the point. And they are champions already.”
So, let’s get ready to cheer them on.