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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Paralympics opens under the shadow of COVID-19, but Canadian athletes excited to compete

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TORONTO — The Paralympic Games has officially opened up under the same light as the Olympics — with COVID-19 cases rising and Tokyo under a state of emergency.

The opening ceremonies occurred Tuesday in the same empty National Stadium where the Olympics began and ended. On the same day came reports of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the athletes village.

But the pandemic hasn’t dulled the determination of Canada’s Paralympic team.

The team is 128 strong, competing in 18 different sports.

The dream of so many athletes is to make it to the Olympic stage.

For Danielle Kisser, getting here required not only perseverance, but balance.

Both in the pool, where she will compete in the 100 metre breast stroke, and in life, where her positivity glows.

“Growing up, I have achondroplasia — dwarfism, so I don’t grow,” she told CTV News.

“My light looks different than yours, but when you choose to shine it, you can make the world a brighter place.”

Each athlete’s journey is different.

For Blaise Mutware, the road to the Paralympics began in 2014, after an armed robbery left him with two bullets in his spine.

“I was lucky to find wheelchair basketball,” he told CTV News. “It was able to really make me excel in life and find a new passion.”

Para badminton will also be played for the first time in Tokyo, where Manitoba’s Olivia Meier will be making her debut.

“There’s a little bit of pressure and expectation for myself,” she said. “I want to do my very best.”

The 22-year-old has a right-side weakness and is a standing level four competitor — the category for competitors with a single below knee amputation, cerebral palsy, hip dysplasia or leg length difference of at least seven cm.

Her coach couldn’t be more proud of her.

“We don’t treat them as parathletes, we treat them just as athletes,” Elliott Beals told CTV News.

“We are excited to see her compete.”

Athletes with different strengths, different stories. But the same goal — achieving gold. 

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones

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