With over 1,600 para-athletes in town for one of the biggest multi-sport events on earth, we checked out a few who hail from our own backyard.
The Parapan Am Games are under way, featuring 1,600 para-athletes from 28 countries competing in 15 sports. The week’s athletic face-offs mark the largest Parapan Am Games since the inaugural multi-sport event in Mexico City in 1999, and maybe even the most exciting.
We’ve rounded up a few of the most promising—and inspiring—GTA-based athletes representing Team Canada. These athletes come from different sports and backgrounds, with some having lived with their respective disabilities since birth while others acquired them later in life. All share what our high school tennis coach would have feverishly described as the necessary killer instinct to triumph over adversity, kicking ass and taking names along the way.
Tracey Ferguson, Wheelchair Basketball
Tracey Ferguson was a neighbourhood shinny champ before spinal surgery left her paralyzed at the age of nine. It wasn’t long after that she discovered wheelchair basketball, and she’s been a force to be reckoned with ever since. Ferguson has been a member of six Paralympic teams, and helped Canada bring home gold medals in 1992, 1996, and 2000. The 40-year-old Markham native is a four-time recipient of the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association’s Female Athlete of the Year award. You can follow her on Twitter at @cdngirl12.
Nydia Langill, Para-Swimming
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months of age, Nydia Langill’s orthopaedic surgeon recommended that the youngster take up swimming for muscular development. The rest, as they say, is history. The now-21-year-old Mississauga resident was a member of Team Canada for the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-swimming Championships in Pasadena, California, where she was a three-time finalist. She hopes to represent Canada in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. You can follow her on Twitter at @nlangill.
Jamoi Anderson, Sitting Volleyball
Anderson was in his early 20s when he contracted a viral infection that eventually required his left leg to be amputated below the knee. Disability didn’t stop the lifelong jock, who picked up sitting volleyball four years ago and has been playing on the national team for three seasons, helping to secure a bronze medal at the 2014 Pan Am Championships. Now 29, Anderson is an athlete ambassador through ParaSport Ontario, travelling to schools and rehab centres to talk about his journey to para-athletic prowess. Born and raised in Toronto, the athlete now lives in Brampton.
Damian Wojtiw, Football 7-A-Side
The 33-year-old Etobicoke native has played soccer since childhood and was Team Canada’s 7-a-Side goalkeeper in its 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland at the CP World Championships in June. Fun fact: the sport is typically played by athletes with cerebral palsy and gets its name from the number of players on the field at any given time—seven, as opposed to 11 of conventional soccer—and otherwise played very similarly to its 11-player counterpart.
Mitchell Chase, Track
Born in Toronto and raised in Pickering, the 18-year-old grade 12 student—who was born with cerebral palsy—started running cross-country in elementary school before loping into track and field as a high schooler. A middle-distance track competitor in this week’s Games, Chase excels in the 400m, 800m, 1500m, and 3000m events. But the athlete has continued to hone his longer-distance-running chops as well, and bears claim to the 2014 Ontario para-cross-country championship title. When not racing up a storm, Chase skis and plays hockey for fun.