Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

The 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals for PyeongChang

Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

On the night Canada’s curlers lost a last-rock heartbreaker in the Paralympic semifinals, hockey player Billy Bridges was waiting up for them when they returned home to the athletes village.

“Billy gave me a pat on the back and said ‘You’ve got to go tomorrow and win that medal for us,’ meaning the whole team Canada,” said skip Mark Ideson, who led Canada to bronze. “And that really put things back in perspective for me. So (Saturday) we played for Canada.”

The Canadian team of 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals at the Pyeongchang Paralympics, one better than four years ago in Sochi.

But the Canadians blew past that mark with several days still to go and never looked back, capturing 28 medals to crush their previous best of 19 in 2010 in Vancouver.

The athletes credited Canada’s performance to a strong sense of teamwork, and a solid group of young stars on the rise.

“There were no down days, I think we were riding the high,” said Mark Arendz, whose six medals in biathlon and cross-country skiing earned him the role as the team’s flagbearer in Sunday’s closing ceremonies. ”We started on this wave and we were riding it, not just nordic, but everyone here in team Canada contributed to that as well.”

The 28 medals were second best behind the United States (36). Ranking by gold medals, Canada, with eight golds, was third behind the Americans (13), and the Neutral Paralympic Athletes from Russia, who had eight gold but more silver than Canada.

Canada’s nordic team — biathlon and cross-country — led the way with 16 medals.

“Nothing unexpected for us, but it took absolutely everything, and that’s what you want at a Paralympic Games, to hit that peak and get as much out of our team as we can,” said Brian McKeever, who raced to three gold, plus a bronze Sunday in the relay. ”We did it, and it was great teamwork. That’s been our theme is teamwork.”

The Paralympic team’s performance comes a month after Canada recorded a best-ever winter Olympics with 29 medals.

“That gets us off on the right foot,” said Arendz. ”I personally love watching the Olympics. That gets the spirit going, and then the closing of the Olympics, and then you’re like ‘Oh wow, now it’s our turn.’”

The Olympic team handed off the baton, and the Paralympic team took it and ran.

“Following the Olympic Games, you always have that pressure in terms of how our Olympic counterparts did,” said Canada’s chef de mission Todd Nicholson. ”They paved the way for us, in order to create that atmosphere to be successful here.”

Nicholson, wearing a chef’s hat and apron — a tongue-in-cheek nod to his role as team “chef” and leader — said the Paralympians arrived in Pyeongchang ready to go.

“They came here came prepared, mentally and physically, and in the best shape that they possibly could be in, to leave it all on the field of play. Everybody peaked at the right time,” he said.

McKeever, who became the country’s most decorated winter Paralympian in Pyeongchang, also credited the changing culture in Canada, and the support Paralympic athletes receive from Sport Canada, Own The Podium, and their various corporate sponsors.

“When I started in 2002, there was very little funding, we were picking up the scraps of what was left over from the able-bodied programs,” said the 38-year-old. ”I remember doing World Cup trips with one coach and also I was helping with wax testing and waxing and we were doing it all as one group.”

McKeever, whose remarkable career spans five Paralympics, hopes Canada’s performance has touched people — and most importantly young people with disabilities — back home.

“We can reach out to more people, we can get more support, we can hopefully reach out to more young people with disabilities to get them into sport,” he said. “Sport is great for the spirit, it’s great to just be kids and playing outside, and hopefully now they’ll start to know there’s a vehicle for that if they want to continue in sport, they can go all the way to the top levels.”

While McKeever and Arendz led the parade to the medal podium, numerous young athletes were all too eager to follow them there, showing Canada’s future in Paralympic indeed looks bright. Among them: Natalie Wilkie, a 17-year-old cross-country skier who won gold, silver and bronze in her Paralympic debut; downhill skier Mollie Jepsen, who raced to four medals including one gold; and Liam Hickey and Corbyn Smith, a pair of 19-year-olds on Canada’s Para ice hockey team.

Canada dropped a 2-1 hockey heartbreaker in overtime Sunday to wrap up the Paralympics, and the veterans couldn’t say enough about the team’s youngest players.

“The talent that this game has, looking at my younger teammates and what they can do, it’s so inspiring, it makes you want to keep going and see where the sport can go,” Bridges said. ”The best showcase for this game and this sport is the youth that are coming up, and what they do with the puck and how fast they are … what they can accomplish is just incredible.”

Added captain Greg Westlake: “It feels bad today but there’s gold medals in that room (in the future) even if they don’t know it.”

Pyeongchang set numerous records, including ticket sales for a winter Games. Organizers said the 345,000 tickets sold was 157 per cent of their target of 220,000.

A record 48 countries and 567 athletes — the previous bests were 45 countries and 547 athletes — competed in 80 events, eight more than Sochi.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Pyeongchang Olympics

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Kelly Servinski, of the Tutti Hotel in Clinton, climbs above the river. (Photo credit: http://www.sterlinglorence.com/)
Gravel is the new gold: Cyclist bumps new biking trend

There’s gravel in them thar hills around Clinton

Amy Newman follows the route of the Cariboo Waggon Road — now Highway 97 — through Clinton. (Photo credit: New Pathways to Gold Society)
Grant received for Cariboo Waggon Road restoration project north of Clinton

New Pathways to Gold hopes to start work this summer on restoring sections of historic road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Most Read