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49 Canadians selected to compete at Paralympics in Beijing

When Team Canada competes at the Paralympics next month, it will do so with an incredibly diverse group of athletes.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) on Sunday officially disclosed the names of the 49 athletes, including four guides, who will make up Canada’s Paralympic team that will travel to Beijing for the Games which run from March 4-13.

The Canadian team boasts a wealth of experience, featuring 25 Paralympic medalists, and 30 athletes who took part in Pyeongchang in 2018, including wheelchair curler Dennis Thiessen, a two-time Paralympian who is the oldest team member at age 60. 

The Canadian Paralympic team also features 19 first-time Paralympians, most notably Para alpine skier Logan Leach, who at age 19 is the youngest member of the team.

Incredibly, nine provinces and territories are represented on Canada’s Paralympic team, with Ontario having the most athletes (21).

As Canada’s chef de mission, Josh Dueck is especially proud of the diversity of the team that the CPC is sending to Beijing, and considers that having so many veterans who are eager to mentor the first-time Paralympians is an investment in the long-term health of the program.

“That might be one of the best things to highlight about this squad going in right now. It’s a healthy blend of experience and youth. … It’s this really beautiful mix of motivation through mentorship. There’s so much motivation that comes from the veteran athletes that are really bringing up the younger athletes coming up behind them that are going to create this really strong and sustained future for Canada’s Paralympic movement,” Dueck told CBC Sports.

Canada will compete in all five winter sports in Beijing: Para ice hockey (17 athletes), Para nordic skiing — including biathlon and cross country (12), Para alpine skiing (11), wheelchair curling (five), and Para snowboard (four).

Of the 49 athletes, none are more decorated than Para nordic skier Brian McKeever, a 42-year-old native of Calgary. McKeever is Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian with 17 medals, including 13 gold, and Beijing will mark his sixth Paralympic appearance.

“He is an incredible leader, he is an incredible spokesperson, and he is a masterful athlete that pays attention to every single detail and is hyper competitive — and at the same time very supportive of his teammates. I really enjoy being in the nordic venues and watching him compete,” admitted Dueck, a former Para alpine skier who won three medals at the Paralympics from 2010 to 2014.

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