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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 8: Bérubé misses 100m freestyle final, shifts focus to 50m butterfly

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

By Madalyn Howitt & Charlie Pinkerton

Toronto, Ontario, August 11, 2015. Camille Berube competes in swimming during the 2015 Parapan Am Games. Photo Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee

Coming off the excitement of her 5th-place finish in the 100-metre backstroke S7 a day earlier, Camille Bérubé jumped right back in the pool to take on the 100m freestyle S7 event on Day 8 of the Paralympics.

Bérubé swam in Heat 2 of the qualification round and needed to place among the Top 5 swimmers in order to advance to the finals, but unfortunately missed the cut. Bérubé placed 7th with a time of 1:19.64.

Now, Bérubé will shift her focus to her final swimming event of the Games: the 50m butterfly S7 event. The heats for the 50m event are set to start at 8:53 p.m., eastern time, on Sept. 2. 

From left to right: Emma Reinke, Amy Burk, and Whitney Bogart of Canada’s women’s goalball team. Photos provided.

The women’s goalball team may have missed their chance at a medal at these Games, but Ottawa team members Amy Burk and Emma Reinke are keeping their heads held high. 

The duo shared their thoughts about being knocked out of the tournament yesterday on social media.

“Not making the quarters has been a tough pill to swallow,” Burk shared on Twitter. “I fought injury this whole [tournament] so now I suffer a lot of the ‘what ifs’.” 

“Today’s game was not it for us,” echoed Reinke in a Twitter post. Still, the rookie is looking at the bright side. “Although we are heartbroken, we’ve kept our heads up, and we are proud,” she said of the team’s 4-2 loss to China. “I couldn’t be happier to share this experience with the girls who have become my family.”

Burk was also proud of her team. “Nobody gave up and we [fought] right until that final whistle,” she said, taking time to also thank the medical and support staff that helped her and her teammates prepare for a tough tournament. “A huge thanks to our [staff] for getting me physically and mentally ready for yesterday’s game. So many people work hard behind the scenes, and they don’t get enough recognition,” she said.  

Despite this disappointment, the team is already looking ahead and preparing for better outcomes for the team.

“Our team has a lot to work on. We will go home take the break we need then get back at it,” said Burk, who said despite some reports, Tokyo 2020 will not be the end of her goalball career. “The continued support from everyone back in Canada has been amazing, I appreciate you all,” said Burk.

Likewise, Reinke expressed gratitude for the support from fans. “Thank you so much to everyone at home who have kept up with our journey,” she said. “We’re not finished. Come on Paris 2024.”

Preview: Brianna Hennessy getting set for Day 10 debut

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Avid readers of the Sports Pages will notice a popular name dominating our next few newsletters — and for good reason. Ottawa’s Brianna Hennessy is gearing up for what is already a historic appearance at these Paralympic Games, and she hasn’t even raced yet.

We’ll have more on that and about her in tomorrow’s newsletter…

Watch Hennessy compete on Wednesday night in the Va’a Single 200m VL2 heats at 8:40 p.m., eastern time, and then shortly again after in the Kayak Single 200m KL1 heats at 9:50 p.m.

Since Canada’s women’s goalball team was eliminated, there are no Ottawa athletes competing on Day 9 of the Paralympics.

Behind the scenes, Ottawa’s Dillon Richardson is raising para powerlifting to new heights

Dillon Richardson is the performance and development manager for the International Powerlifting Federation. Photo provided.

The athletes are no doubt the stars of the Paralympics Games, but many of them acknowledge time and time again how much they appreciate the support of staff who work behind the scenes. 

While there are sadly no Canadian athletes competing in Tokyo in para-powerlifting, fans of the sport may be intrigued to know that off camera, a native of Nepean is helping to put on the events and promote the sport internationally. 

Ahead of the Games, Madalyn Howitt had the pleasure of speaking with Ottawa’s Dillon Richardson, who works with the International Powerlifting Federation and is now based in Germany. He’s been in Tokyo for weeks now, helping to prep the powerlifting venue and prepare the athletes for their time in the spotlight. 

“I’m super excited to be at such a high-level event like the Paralympics and be involved in putting it together,” said Richardson, on video call from his hotel room in Tokyo. “We’re responsible for getting all weightlifting stuff out, getting all our equipment and everything set up, helping with rehearsals and preparing for the event, and then taking everything down at the end.”

It’s a huge undertaking in the best of years, but during this one it’s been a unique experience to say the least.

“Logistically, the journey has been a bit complicated, but everybody jokes that the Olympics are kind of a test run for the Paralympics,” laughed Richardson. “There are all these things going on in the background that people don’t see on TV. When one event is happening, we’re already preparing for the second group, so we’re pretty tired after events,” he went on.

While Richardson himself doesn’t have a background in powerlifting, he said it’s been a joy to learn so much about the sport and what makes it different from Olympic weightlifting.

“Able-bodied powerlifting is more about just getting the weight up, but in Paralympic powerlifting the rules are super strict — it has to be a very beautiful lift with perfect technique,” he explained.

In powerlifting, athletes use only their upper bodies to lift weights using the bench press technique and must hold the bar motionless on their chest before pressing it upwards and locking their elbows. Each competitor gets three tries, and it is not unusual for athletes to lift over three times their body weight.

“It’s a very beautiful sport. Athletes who participate are gaining more strength and therefore more independence,” he added. This is especially true for women powerlifters, as statistics show women with disabilities are at a higher risk for abuse, said Richardson.

Richardson also enjoys the strong sense of community at competitions. “People with disabilities make up 15 per cent of the world’s population, but at Paralympic events able-bodied people are the minority, so it’s quite beautiful in the sense of developing friendships and [athletes] feeling a sense of belonging,” said Richardson, adding that he finds powerlifters often stick around days after their events end to show support for their fellow competitors.

He would like to see more awareness and support for powerlifting in his home country.

Richardson feels though that the momentum from Canada’s strong performance in weightlifting at the Olympics (like Maude Charron’s gold medal win in the 64kg event) will help draw more attention to powerlifting in Canada and help propel more athletes towards the Paralympic podium.

Until then, Richardson is happy to watch events unfold from backstage and support each athlete, regardless of who they’re competing for.

“Because there’s no Canadians,” he explained, “I get to cheer for everybody.”

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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