Gagne says carrying Canada’s flag into Paralympic opening ceremony is ‘a present’

2021-08-21 18:49:00

TOKYO —
The glint of U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson’s gold footwear on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics performed a major function in Priscilla Gagne’s dream of turning into an athlete on the world’s largest stage.

Gagne, who has retinitis pigmentosa, a visible impairment affecting her central imaginative and prescient, was simply 10 years outdated throughout the 1996 Atlanta Video games.

Standing very near the TV, she may make out the white stripes of the observe lanes, the “whitish blobs” of runners going round it, and athletes’ faces throughout close-ups. Her aunt identified that Johnson wore gold spikes.

“I bear in mind pondering, ‘Wow, he is gutsy to put on gold trainers. I hope he wins simply because that may be horrible if he did not and he wore gold footwear,”‘ Gagne stated with fun. “That was my little 10-year-old thought, and he gained (each the 200 and 400 metres). And seeing the smile on his face.

“In order that impressed me. That was my begin. I assumed I would go to the Olympics as a runner.”

Gagne’s introduction to Paralympic sports activities when she was 15, nevertheless, was a game-changer, she stated. And now one of many world’s most interesting Para judo athletes, Gagne will carry Canada’s flag into Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics.

The 35-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., is ranked No. 2 on the earth at 52 kilograms.

She completed fifth in her Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016, and in 2018 grew to become the primary Canadian girl to climb the medal podium on the Para judo world championships, successful bronze.

Gagne could not march within the Rio opening ceremony or the 2 Parapan Am Video games wherein she competed and gained silver. The ceremonies at all times conflicted with having to make weight.

So she was already thrilled on the prospect of marching. Carrying the flag, she stated, is a big honour.

“For me it represents unity inside range, it represents energy and resilience, and it represents a hope for one thing higher than what we have now,” she stated. “I actually hope that for teenagers dwelling with disabilities, this conjures up them to by no means cease dreaming, to by no means take heed to any individual who tells them no, and to face along with individuals who consider in them.”

Gagne, who can have her coaching accomplice and information Laurie Wiltshire alongside her at Olympic Stadium, stated the previous 19 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been powerful on Paralympic athletes.

Ready-bodied judo athletes on Canada’s nationwide workforce skilled collectively in a good bubble, however Gagne and one other Paralympic athlete have been excluded.

“That basically damage,” stated Gagne, who lives and trains in Montreal. “It introduced again a variety of occasions from my childhood, emotions from once I was a child and simply making an attempt to be like the opposite children. I assumed we had grown a lot as a society, we have put a lot work into it, and everybody’s been so supportive and open to built-in sport, and I assumed we had come up to now.

“I perceive that folks get put in positions the place they make choices they do not need to must make, and there is plenty of pink tape and totally different funding, however it nonetheless damage loads. And that made it very difficult.”

Gagne stated her coaching was interrupted till Could of this 12 months when she was in a position to journey to Texas to coach.

She then travelled to Lethbridge, Alta., and Calgary. She was warmed by the assist she obtained in all three areas.

“I believe if I hadn’t skilled the hardship at first that possibly I would not have appreciated the depth of their generosity and their kindness,” she stated.

Stephanie Dixon, Canada’s chief de mission for Tokyo, known as Gagne in Montreal to ship the information she’d been chosen flag-bearer.

Gagne was out strolling her canine on the time, a shepherd-lab combine who’s 14-and-a-half and “very sluggish, so it took some time to get house to name her again,” Gagne laughed.

“There was nobody quick thought, it was like a whirlwind of ideas. It is pleasure. It is nostalgia. It is all the things. And rewarding too due to the 12 months that we went by way of, and simply the struggles we had with coaching and with forms, and that sort of factor. It was so good to have this reward. That is what it’s, it is a reward.”

Dixon stated Gagne’s ardour and excellence “on and off the mat is immeasurable and this honour is well-deserved.

“She can be an unimaginable ambassador for Canada on the Video games, and I do know our complete workforce can be proud to have her cleared the path,” added Dixon, who captured 19 Paralympic medals in swimming.

Just like the Olympics that closed two weeks in the past, Gagne will lead a small contingent of Canadian workforce athletes into the stadium attributable to COVID-19 considerations. However there can be a viewing social gathering on the athletes village, Dixon stated.

Canada has 128 athletes, together with guides, competing in 18 sports activities in Tokyo.

The Video games shut on Sept. 5.

Ladies’s basketball participant Miranda Ayim and males’s rugby sevens participant Nathan Hirayama shared flag-bearer duties for the Olympic opening ceremony on July 23.

Damian Warner carried Canada’s flag within the closing after capturing gold within the decathlon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Aug. 21, 2021.


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