Lighting the flame
The inaugural Parapan Am Games took place in 1999 in Mexico City and were comprised of four sports. It subsequently grew to nine sports in 2003, 10 sports in 2007, and 13 sports in 2011. This year the Games will be the largest to date, featuring 15 sports and 1,608 athletes from 28 countries. The Games are used as a regional qualifying event for the Paralympic Games. The next Summer Paralympic Games will take place in September 2016 at Rio di Janerio, Brazil. The next Winter Paralympic Games will take place in February 2018 at Pyeong Chang, South Korea.
Parasport showcases the tremendous ability in those athletes living with a disability. This, and the awareness it brings of accessibility in the host city, the venues, housing etc. all make parasport competitions like the Parapan Am Games so important. Not only for the athletes or their countries, but for all those around the world facing the same challenges.
As Canada and the rest of the Americas come together to celebrate parasport, we thought to showcase one of our Ambassadors, Danielle Campo McLeod and Paralymic Gold medal winner.
Danielle had the honour of being a torchbearer on July 9th. We caught up with her and asked her some questions:
What does parasport mean to you and what do you want people to know about it?
Parasport, to me, means passion, dedication and commitment. It is an outlet to set personal dreams and achieve those dreams and never give up. Parasport gave me the opportunity to persevere and reach levels of success I could have never imagined. I want people to know that there is no difference between parasport athletes and able bodied athletes. We train just as hard, for just as many hours, we have the same successes and the same challenges. The only difference in parasport is we have had to figure out a way to overcome a physical limitation.
How do you feel about being a Parapan Am Games torch bearer?
This is the first event that I will be doing hand in hand with my son, who is an upcoming athlete. Calum and I are so excited to be apart of an amazing event that will bring all Canadians together. I feel honoured that we will be connected to so many amazing athletes and people from all over the American Continents! I know the dedication and commitment it has taken the athletes, coaches and families to achieve this dream and we wish everyone the best of luck.
Did you ever compete at the Parapan Am Games?
I never had the chance to compete at the Parapan Am Games. This is just evidence to show how far parasport has come. When I was competing we did not have the Parapan Am Games, it was just an able bodied event.
What was your favorite thing about competing in the Paralympics?
Representing my country and knowing that I had achieved my dreams. There was no better feeling then looking down at the gold around my neck and hearing O Canada. To me it was a medal for my country to show that no matter what, you can do whatever you put your mind to.
What is your advice for those looking to try parasport or compete internationally?
Find something you love. Set a dream and never give up. Once you set your dream hold on tight because it will be the ride of your life.
Danielle won a stunning three gold medals and one silver in freestyle swimming (one gold was for relay) at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Australia. That year she was named Ontario’s Junior Citizen of the Year. She was then all of fifteen years old.
In 2004 at the Athens games, Danielle won a silver and two bronze medals in relay and freestyle. Her athletic achievements defy the usual limits that come with congenital fibre type disproportion, the rare form of muscular dystrophy, which is Danielle’s diagnosis.
The Parapan Am Games begin in Toronto, Ontario on August 7th and run through August 15th.
Learn more about the Parapan Am Games here.
Learn more about Danielle here.
You can also visit Danielle’s page on the Canadian Paralympic website.