Paralympic team comes through for Canada 

Canadians third in overall medal tally, beating past performance

Despite a fourth place finish in the medal standings in 2000, the 144-member Canadian Paralympic Team had modest top-10 expectations for Athens in 2004, with nations like China and the U.S. stepping up their support for disabled athletes and a record number of nations and athletes taking part.

Led by swimmers and track stars, the Canadians piled up win after win, setting world records in many events, and finished third IN the gold medal tally.

As predicted, the Chinese team was unstoppable with 141 medals this year, including 63 gold medals. Great Britain was second once again with 94 medals including 35 gold. Canada’s take this year was 72 medals with 28 gold – 24 fewer medals than 2000, but with more nations competing and China dominating, it was more than enough to move into third on the overall medal tally.

In terms of total medals, Canada was seventh overall, with the U.S. winning 88 medals (27 gold), Australia winning 100 (26 gold), Germany winning 79 (19 gold) and France winning 74 (18 gold). The Ukraine and Spain were also strong this year, with Spain winning 20 gold medals out of 71 in total and Ukraine winning 24 gold medals out of a total of 55 medals.

Canada was helped along in the medal standings by several multiple medal winners, led by swimmer Stephanie Dixon of Victoria who won eight medals – one gold (100m backstroke), six silver medals (100m butterfly, 100m freestyle, 4X100 freestyle relay, 4X100 medley relay, 200m individual medley and 400m freestyle), and one bronze (50m freestyle).

Her teammate Kirby Cote succeeded in winning five gold medals (100m butterfly, 400m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50m freestyle), and two silver medals (100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke), setting three world record times in the process.

Benoit Huot led the men’s swimming team with five gold medals (100m butterfly, 100m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 400m freestyle and 50m freestyle), and one silver (100m backstroke), also setting three new world records.

Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal won five gold medals in the track and field events, taking the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m wheelchair races – every event she entered.

Other multiple medal winners included:

Swimmer Anne Polinario of Toronto with two gold medals, in the 50m and 100m freestyle, and silver medals in the 4X100m freestyle relay, 4X100m medley relay and 100m backstroke.

Track and field stars Chelsea Clarke of Mississauga, Ontario and Lisa Franks of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan won two gold medals apiece.

Swimmer Walter Wu of Richmond won gold in the 400m freestyle and silver medals in the 200 individual medley and 100m backstroke.

Swimmer Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver won two silver medals in the 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley, and a bronze in the 100m freestyle.

Swimmer Andrea Cole of Thunder Bay won silver in the 4X100m freestyle relay and bronze in the 100m butterfly.

Track and field athlete Andre Beaudoin of Cowansville, Quebec won gold in the 400m and was third in the 100m wheelchair.

Swimmer Chelsey Gotell of Nova Scotia won gold in the 100m backstroke, and three bronze medals in the 100m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 50m freestyle.

Elisabeth Walker of St. Catharines, Ontario won gold in the 4X100 medley relay and bronze in the 50m butterfly.

Canada’s teams also did well, with the men’s wheelchair basketball team upsetting the odds to defend their title by going 8-0, winning six of those games (including the finals) by 20 points or more. The wheelchair rugby team also repeated as champions, while the women’s goalball team won its first Paralympic gold medal.

The one disappointment was the women’s wheelchair basketball team, which had to settle for third after dominating at the Paralympics for almost 20 years. They were beaten by the U.S. in the semi-finals, then defeated Germany in the consolation final.

Showing that the Olympics aren’t alone when it comes to battling doping, three Paralympians tested positive for banned substances during this year’s Games. Vladislav Janovjak, a visually impaired cyclist from Slovakia, lost a silver medal in the men’s tandem event when his guide tested positive.

A pair of weightlifers, Ali Hosseini of Iran and Youssef Chiekh Younes of Syria were forced to give up their bronze medals after they tested positive for steroids.

As well, Canadian track star Earle Connor tested positive for trace amounts of testosterone and nandrolone in an out-of-competition test prior to the Games.

The Paralympics ran from Sept. 17 to Sept. 30. Although the events went off without a hitch, there were some complaints from athletes regarding the general accessibility of Athens and the Olympic venues. In addition, the closing ceremonies were a low-key affair after a bus crash claimed the lives of nine children who were on their way to watch an event.

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