2016 Paralympic Summer Games from September 7-18

From September 7-18 Brazil will host the XXV Paralympic Summer Games. This year 162 athletes will compete at the Games for Team Canada including (bullets courtesy of the Ontario Government):

  • Priscilla Gagné, a Sarnia judoka who won silver at the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
  • Whitney Bogart, a 2015 Parapan Am Games Goalball gold medalist from Thunder Bay.
  • Melanie Hawtin, Ontario’s lightning-fast wheelchair basketball player from Oakville who won silver with Team Canada at the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
  • Jason Dunkerley, the Ottawa runner who is the current Canadian record holder for the T11 800m, 1500m and 5000m.

In total there will be 4,350 athletes from more than 161 countries, and a refugee team competing in 22 sports at the XXV Paralympic Summer Games. CBC will be providing full coverage of the Games, which includes ample opportunities for viewers to stream competitions.

The Opening Ceremony begins tomorrow, September 7 at 6:30 PM with wheelchair basketball veteran David Eng as Team Canada’s Paralympic flag-bearer. This will be an incredible chance to see a variety of sports that rarely make it onto television such as wheelchair tennis, archery, athletics, boccia, cycling, equestrian, football 5-a-side, football 7-a-side, goalball, paracanoe, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball!!!!

In an interview with CBC, Chantal Peticlerc – Team Canada’s Chef de Mission, appointee to the Senate of Canada and winner of 21 Paralympic medals – recently said (and I couldn’t agree more):

The level of inspiration that Canadians and kids with disability or older people with disability can get from our athletes and the Paralympic Games is amazing. . . It inspires because it proves that it can be done … That always touches me. It’s tough for a parent of a child with disabilities, because you want them to push their limits and you want them to believe anything is possible. So they can see the Paralympic Games with all the disabilities. You’ve got visually impaired people on a bike going 100 kilometres an hour. It’s a very, very powerful human message.

Olympic Women’s Soccer Starts Today!

Women’s soccer kicks off a few days before the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics with games beginning this afternoon and continuing all the way through to the evening (the full schedule can be seen at the following – take note of the time difference, all games are one hour ahead of Canada’s EST time zone: Olympic Soccer Match Schedule).

Broadcast times and providers will be shifting throughout the tournament so some soccer matches will not be aired by CBC. For the group stage of the tournament, you’ll be able to watch the Canada WNT time at the following times and on the following stations:

  • First match on 3 Aug at 14:00 ET/11:00 PT on CBC against Australia.
  • Second match against Zimbabwe is on 6 Aug at 14:00 ET/11:00 PT on CBC.
  • Final group stage match against Germany 9 Aug at 15:00 ET/12:00 PT on Sportsnet.

Since many of these games are in the daytime, those with full-time jobs will have to do some maneuvering. However for those with some flexibility, a few fun local recommendations if you are planning on watching at a bar or restaurant:

  • Cafe Diplomatico, Little Italy – an Italian institution with a large patio and a dozen television screens so you can watch from any angle. Calzones are dynamite.
  • Football Factory, Queen St W – they’ve got every channel you can imagine, a great patio and an atmosphere that is soccer 100% of the time.
  • Bairrada Churrasqueira, College St W – a favourite amongst the Portuguese community. The patio is incredible and the food is simple and delicious. Cheap booze too.
  • Tall Boys, Christie Pits – good for evening and weekend games, this restaurant is a craft beer haven with double patty burgers and a hipster atmosphere.

Something else I want to draw to your attention to is the Women’s Basketball schedule. Games begin on Saturday with twelve teams competing for gold. The Canada Basketball Women’s Team is fresh off a gold medal at the Pan American Games (I went to that one! It was UNBELIEVABLE! They are a force. Beat the Americans easily). They also recently held a few exhibition matches against top tier opponents as a last minute tune up before the Olympics. Don’t be surprised to see them more and more in the news as they are a rising force in women’s basketball.

Second to None: Brazilian Star Marta

In Canada we have Christine Sinclair and in Brazil they have Marta. Marta is one of the most prolific soccer players ever to play the game. Many years ago I saw her play live in Rochester, New York in what was the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She was a beast – all muscle, strength, speed, agility and finesse. She has been named FIFA’s world player of the year 5 times, an incredible honour that only one other player in soccer has earned: Lionel Messi. Given that the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted in Brazil, this will be a prime, and rare opportunity for Marta and the Brazilian WNT to showcase their talent on home soil.

A few months ago when Brazil was in town slated to play Canada in 2-game exhibition series, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk did a wonderful profile on Marta: “Brazilian star Marta not settling for second: The men’s game will always be first in her country, but the star of the women’s soccer team is trying to close the gap”. In the article Feschuk outlines how women’s soccer in Brazil does not have the same foundations as in other countries such as the US, which makes the accomplishments of Brazil’s WNT remarkable, and the success of Marta bittersweet.

For me, Brazil’s WNT is one of my favourites to watch simply because of their flair, creativity, skill on the ball and attacking style. It was a pleasure to watch them in June and I look forward to seeing them this month at the Olympics. I hope the Rio Olympics changes people’s perception of women’s soccer in Brazil, but I know that institutional and social changes happen very slow. Below, pictures from Canada vs Brazil Exhibition Match at BMO Field June 4, 2016.

All pictures © Cristina Murano