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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 12: Last competition for Ottawa’s Paralympians, and a look back on the Games

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, Madalyn Howitt & Dan Plouffe

Ottawa’s time at the Tokyo Games closed last evening with Brianna Hennessy‘s final race in the Women’s KL1 Kayak Single 200 metres. The Ottawa River Canoe Club athlete came third in the semifinals, beating out Jeanette Chippington of Great Britain by less than half a second to secure a spot in the final.

Hennessy then placed 8th in the final, with a time of 58.233 seconds. It was her fastest race of these Games for that event, and left her just over 2 seconds away from a spot on the podium in her first Paralympic appearance less than a year after taking up paddling.

Brianna Hennessy. Photo: Scott Grant/CPC

One day earlier, the 36-year-old also reached the final in her Va’a canoe event, placing 5th and just over a second from the bronze medal spot.

That put Hennessy in a tie with wheelchair rugby player Patrice Dagenais and swimmer Camille Bérubé for the top results out of Ottawa Paralympians.

Goalball rookie Reinke impresses in Paralympic debut

Emma Reinke. Photo: Dave Holland/CPC

Along with Hennessy, there was one other rookie among Ottawa’s Paralympians. Emma Reinke was a breakout star on the women’s goalball team, although the Canadian team was eliminated earlier than expected from their tight tournament group to finish 9th overall.

There were a few standout moments nonetheless for the team that prove they’re still a formidable force on the court. Many of those moments came from 23-year-old Reinke, who is just getting started on what looks likely to be a long goalball career.

Still battling jetlag from the long flight home, Reinke spoke with Sports Pages reporter Madalyn Howitt about the experience of competing with Team Canada’s women’s goalball team.

“Defensively, I felt pretty good,” Reinke said of her time in the tournament. “I think there were more offensive things that I could have done – I had a lot of accuracy issues. It’s something that I think we kind of took for granted [this year],” she added, “so following an accuracy-based game plan is something that we need to work more on.”

The rookie proved to be a strong presence in the tournament, despite the Canadians being knocked out of medal contention with a 4-2 loss to China in their final group stage game. Canada earlier lost 5-1 to the Russian Paralympic Committee, beat Israel 6-2, and fell 4-3 to Australia.

Reinke scored 8 goals over 4 games, ranking her 8th out of all tournament players for most goals scored at the end of the group stage.

Reinke shared that while she was expecting a high level of play from their competitors, she wonders if more opportunities to play against international teams during the pandemic would have led to a different outcome for the team.


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“It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to get out to play any different teams. I don’t know if that was our downfall, but it definitely didn’t help,” she said.

Emma Reinke. Photo: Dave Holland/CPC

Reflecting on the positive side of her experience however, Reinke said she was pleased with how much time she spent on the court.

“I’m really proud that I did get time to play,” she said. “I scored a Paralympic goal or two, which was really exciting, and our game against Israel was a lot of fun for us,” she went on, adding that she felt well-supported by her teammates on the bench as well as from friends at home.

“Being in that environment and having the support of all of Team Canada is really cool. Seeing the amount of people who ended up watching from home was actually shocking, like a lot of people I know personally that I wasn’t sure would actually go through with watching,” she laughed.

Reinke noted that Ottawa teammates Amy Burk and Whitney Bogart were even stopped in the airport in Japan by fans who had watched them play on TV. “It’s just nuts. The support from home was crazy,” she added.

Still fresh off her Paralympic adventure, Reinke admitted she needs more time to reflect on what she learned during the Games, but her mental strength as a competitor is something she feels has grown.

“I think I learned a lot about mental performance. I was feeling every single emotion, every day for an entire week – I didn’t think that was possible,” she said.

Reinke will soon start balancing her goalball career with her studies at Carleton University but is already looking forward to hopefully continuing her Paralympic journey at Paris 2024.

“I’m excited,” she said brightly.

Veteran local Paralympians provided leadership

The rest of the local Paralympians we’ve followed in recent weeks are veterans of the Games, having now appeared three or four times each. Amy Burk and Whitney Bogart brought leadership, experience and support to younger players the goalball team. Camille Bérubé broke her streak of having never qualified for a Paralympic final in the pool, doing so on two occasions this Games and finishing 5th in two of her races.
 
The Sports Pages’ Kieran Heffernan talked to three-time Paralympian Patrice Dagenais about the wheelchair rugby team’s hard-fought battle for 5th place.

Patrice Dagenais. Photo: Dave Holland/CPC

The Canadians lost close contests in their first two games – against Great Britain (50-47) and the U.S. (58-54) – to take them out of medal contention, but they picked up steam and won their next two against New Zealand (51-36) and France (57-49) to place 5th.

“We did have a tough pool since [Great Britain and the U.S.] did end up playing for the gold medal,” noted Dagenais, who has been the team’s co-captain since 2015. “We worked hard going into this tournament and we had a lot of confidence going in, but I think we didn’t maybe execute as well as we wanted to.”

As much as he enjoys taking on a leadership role within the team, he’s not the only one with lots of experience.

“We have a lot of players on this team that have been to three, four and even five Paralympic Games. So there’s a lot of leadership throughout the players on the team,” he explained. Out of 12 players, only three had never been to a Games before.

Dagenais didn’t play for the first two games of the tournament, largely because of coaching decisions surrounding matchups and classification. Different players have different classification based on their disability, ranging from 0.5 to 3.5. The total for the four players on the court at a time can’t exceed 8. For many of the lineups the coaches chose, the math just didn’t work out in Dagenais’s favour.

“It is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to contribute on the court and maybe make a difference, but at the same time I was still staying positive on the bench, encouraging my teammates, because whether I’m playing or not, the goal remains the same and that’s to win all the games to eventually get a medal,” Dagenais said.

He’ll now be taking the month of September off to rest and decide if he’ll keep playing, but right now he said it’s pretty likely that he will, as the World Championships are only 14 months away, and Paris 2024 not too much farther.

Capital region roundup

There were also several Paralympians who were past Ottawa residents or from the larger national capital region. Opening Ceremonies flag bearer Priscilla Gagné won a silver medal in the judo women’s 52 kg, Anne Fergusson and Jolan Wong placed 4th in women’s sitting volleyball, Austin Ingram was 8th in the athletics relay and 10th in the 100 metres, Joey Desjardins was 8th in the hand cycling road race and 11th in the time trial, and Jody Schloss was 11th in equestrian.

You can look back on all of our Ottawa at the Paralympics coverage at: https://ottawasportspages.ca/ottawa-at-the-paralympics-central/

Games coming to a close, but we’ll be back soon

With Ottawa athletes’ competition schedules complete, and the Paralympics Closing Ceremonies coming up tomorrow morning (7 a.m. ET Ottawa time), we’ll also be bringing to a close our newsletter series on the Tokyo Games, where these stories were originally published.

From our team of Kieran Heffernan, Madalyn Howitt, Martin Cleary, Jennica Klassen, Charlie Pinkerton and Dan Plouffe, thank you very much to all of our readers for following along and getting behind our local Olympians and Paralympians! We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed the Games and hearing the stories of our local athletes.

This being a first-time effort for us (and with the next Games quickly on the horizon this winter), we’d love to hear your feedback – what you liked, what we can do better, ideas for what else you might like to see in our coverage, or anything else you may like to comment about. You can email us at editor@ottawasportspages.ca.

Before we became a daily show during the Tokyo Games, our newsletter was produced on a biweekly basis (we’ll now return to that schedule). The Saturday Sports Pages delivers local sports news from high schools, universities, community and elite amateur sport – the levels that rarely receive any attention from the mainstream media.

Our website at OttawaSportsPages.ca has the same focus, as does the almost-10-year-old Ottawa Sports Pages newspaper, which is published 7 times per year and available at sports facilities, outdoor newspaper boxes, and many other locations across the city.

Our not-for-profit organization also provides free sports opportunities to kids from low-income neighbourhoods in collaboration with the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s recLINK program and our partner community sports groups.

So that’s officially a wrap for our Ottawa at the Tokyo Games coverage – we’ll look forward to bringing you our next newsletter on Sept. 25 when we’ll have university sports back in the capital for the first time in almost 2 years!

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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