The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games have featured the largest number of para-sports in its history this summer, encouraging athletes and fans to push for ever greater inclusion.
Five sports – swimming, weight lifting, lawn bowls, athletics and track cycling – have offered medals side by side with other sports at the Scottish games, with track cycling making its debut and lawn bowls returning for the first time since 2002.
Tomorrow spoke to Canadian athletes about where para-sport goes next after Glasgow.
Aurelie Rivard,1 from Montreal, Quebec, won bronze in the para-sport 200m individual medley (SM10 classification) in a time of 2:32.09 to the same excited crowds as any of the swimming races at Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Glasgow’s east end.
The 18-year-old said she wants spectators and those behind the bid for Edmonton, Alberta, to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, to put all swimmers in the same group. And Ms Rivard said she fed off the energy of the fans.
“We are part of the Canadian national team, just in the Paralympics,” she told Tomorrow after receiving her medal. “Just do the same media thing, the same swim meets or get to train with them sometimes.
“When you breath you can hear, like, just ‘Ahhh’ and it’s pretty great. It’s awesome. I’ve never had it in my life and I loved it. It’s really nice to feel equal.”
World record holder Sophie Pascoe, from New Zealand, took gold in the 200m race with Australia’s Katherine Downie getting silver.
But in track cycling, Canada was unable to send any para-athletes because it clashed with the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup2 at Cantimpalos, Segovia, Spain, between July 25 and 27. The UCI’s Juniors Track World Championships3 in Gwangmyeong, South Korea, from August 8 to 12, don’t include any para-cycling events compared to the integration in Glasgow.
Canadian cyclist Laura Brown,4 28, from Vancouver, British Columbia, said: “We don’t actually have any of our para-cyclists here because there’s a world cup so all of our athletes are there, I think, getting qualification points.
“But I think it’s pretty cool to actually have them at the same time because I think people don’t pay as much attention to the para as not-para. To have them racing on the track in between our races just gives it more exposure. And they’re racing in front of sold-out crowds, so I think it’s pretty cool.”
Tomorrow caught up with swimmer Morgan Bird5 on the last night of swimming competition on July 29, and after her race in the finals of the women’s para-sport 100m freestyle S8 on July 25, 2014.
Having spoken two years ago at the London 2012 Paralympics about the potential legacy of those games, Ms Bird is back in the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Ms Bird came fourth in a time of 1:10.07 just behind Australia’s Lakeisha Patterson, England’s Stephanie Slater and Australia’s Maddison Elliott, who took gold in a time of 1:05.32.
The 20th Commonwealth Games also have largest para-sport programme in their history, with races in the swimming, for example, integrated alongside other races. In Ms Bird’s final, Ann Wacuka, from Kenya, came last, finishing a minute after the other five athletes but to deafening cheers from a packed Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Glasgow’s east end.
“Not many people can say they’ve come to a Commonwealth Games and this is my very first one, so I’m very proud of making it into a final,” said the 20-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, just after coming out of the pool. “The crowd is amazing. You don’t come to a meet and see a crowd like that very often so I tried my best to take advantage of it.”
Speaking on having para-sports as part of the games programme, Ms Bird added: “I think that’s a huge deal, for para-sport, and it’s been such an honour to compete for Canada as one of the three para-athletes that were chosen to come. And I just want to do Canada proud. So that’s been such an honour.”