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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 3: Matches No. 2 bring joy, disappointment

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

By Kieran Heffernan, Martin Cleary & Charlie Pinkerton

After a losing start against the ROC, Canada’s Ottawa-athlete-led women’s goalball team managed to turn it around, beating Israel 6-2. Israel had just come off a strong 11-1 win against Australia.
 
Canada didn’t make any substitutions during this game, with Ottawa’s Emma Reinke, along with Meghan Mahon and Maryam Salehizadeh, playing the entire match while the two other Ottawans on the team, Amy Burk and Whitney Bogart, sat out.
 
First-time Paralympian Reinke stood out in the match, scoring four of Canada’s six goals, including one penalty shot. She also made an impressive save after receiving a high ball penalty (the ball didn’t touch the Canadian side before landing in the neutral zone), preventing the Israeli team from gaining an early lead.
 
Israel had another chance after Reinke received a second penalty, this time for a long ball (the ball didn’t touch down in the neutral zone). Israel’s Lihi Ben David slipped as she took the penalty shot, allowing Reinke to make the save once again.
 
Reinke got Canada on the board about nine minutes in, scoring the only goal of the first half. She followed this up with three consecutive goals in the second half. Reinke once again led the team in throws, with 60.
 
Canada is now tied for 2nd place in its group. The top 4 of 5 teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals.
 
Canada’s wheelchair rugby team wasn’t so lucky today. They lost 58-54 to the U.S. in another close match. Captain Patrice Dagenais sat out again, perhaps indicating that the three-time Paralympian is taking on more of a coaching role these Games.

Canada had a small lead going into halftime of the game, with the score knotted at 28-27 after the first 16 minutes. The Americans then dominated the second half, and Canada wasn’t able to catch up.
 
Head coach Patrick Côte said before the match that “the U.S.A. is probably the team to beat. They are not No. 1 in the world, they are 2nd, they are a very solid team. But we know them in and out, (and) they know us in and out.”
 
Unfortunately, not beating the U.S. means Canada’s medal hopes are over. They’re now tied with New Zealand for 2nd in their group of 4 (the U.S. and Great Britain are tied for 1st), and only have New Zealand left to play in this round.

Day 4 Preview: Camille Bérubé conquers mental health, COVID challenges to reach 3rd Paralympics

Camille Bérubé begins the first of her five races, the 200-metre freestyle, tonight at 9:13 p.m. eastern time. If she comes in the top 8 (out of 9 competitors), she’ll then qualify for the event’s finals. The finals are scheduled for tomorrow at 6 a.m.

Beginning her third Paralympics, Bérubé will be able to look down her narrow, marked lane and see serenity.
 
That’s quite a change from “the shark-infested” waters she has experienced for the past three years to get to the point where she will now represent Canada against the best swimmers with disabilities.
 
Gone is the mental health crisis that plagued her in 2018. Gone is the disappointment of having no competitions in the past 17 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gone is the crushing blow of having the 2020 Paralympics postponed a year.
 
Those hurdles have come and passed, but they’re still in the blurry background, serving as a method of motivation for Bérubé. If she can channel that adversity into energy, it may help her reach her first Paralympic final. Her best result at Rio 2016 was a 9th and at London 2012, it was 11th.
 
In 2018, Bérubé struggled with depression and anxiety. She was out for a month and had “a very gradual comeback.” Bérubé told Martin Cleary, whose High Achievers column is published by the Sports Pages, that if her coach, Craig McCord of Natation Gatineau, wasn’t so understanding, she wouldn’t be heading to Tokyo.
 
“He has had a huge impact on me the last four years,” said Bérubé, who was born with cancer, which impacted both of her legs. “He is more of a father figure to me. He knows me and how I respond to training.
 
“He has built a program around what works for me. We have a friendship and open communication. It’s useful and inspiring. I trust him with my life.”

Camille Berube. File photo

Bérubé’s mental health challenges almost pulled her out of swimming, a sport where she won a silver and two bronze medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games.
 
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe in the water. I took time off. When I got that (swimming) feel back, I did the backstroke because my head would be out of the water. It was a very gradual comeback.

“It was one of the hardest years of my life. But I have grown as a person. I talk openly about it. There’s no stigma about talking about mental health. Look at (Olympic gymnast) Simone Biles. High-performance sport is great, but my mental health is much more important.”

That important timeout was valuable for Bérubé. She returned to full training in time to qualify for the Canadian team to the 2019 International Paralympic Committee world championships, reaching three finals in four individual races.

In addition to the SM7 200-metre individual medley, Bérubé will compete at the Paralympics in the SB6 100-metre breaststroke, S7 100-metre backstroke, S7 100-metre freestyle and S7 50-metre butterfly.


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While the ongoing pandemic — and the pool closures that have come with it — left Bérubé with an off-and-on training schedule, she’s found other ways to train. The hand bike, gym workouts and walking have become a larger part of her routine.

She also feels she has emerged from the pandemic as a better person.

“I’m definitely a more solid athlete, emotionally and mentally,” Bérubé said. “The lockdown made us develop… it was hard for us emotionally.”

Without any racing since February 2020, Bérubé is uncertain where she ranks in the world in her two best events: the SM7 200-metre individual medley, and the SB6 100-metre breaststroke.

“My goal is to make the top 6,” she added. “Ideally, I hope to work towards the top 8. I haven’t reached a Paralympic final before and when you race for a medal, anything can happen.

“Given the uncertainty, it will be very interesting. There might be people popping out of nowhere. I control what I can control. I’ll throw out my best races. My opponents better watch out.”

The other Ottawa Paralympian in action on Day 4 is:

Patrice Dagenais and Canada’s mixed rugby team play the final match of the group stage tomorrow at 7 a.m. against New Zealand. The teams will essentially be playing to see who goes to the playoff that determines 5th and 6th place, and who goes to the playoff for 7th and 8th place.

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.


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