Priscilla Gagné will lead Canadian Para-Judo hopes as part of the team headed to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee and Judo Canada named Gagné, who won a silver medal at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, and Tony Walby to the team for Brazil.
Montreal-based Gagné is trying to keep a lid on her excitement at having selection for her first Paralympic Games confirmed.
“It’s extremely exciting. It’s hard to wrap your head around,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s something I’m trying not to focus on too much until the day after I compete. That’s when I’ll let it hit me.”
Gagné, who was born in Granby, Que., but moved to Sarnia, Ont., at age three, will go into September’s Games with confidence having medaled in all of the World Cup events in 2016.
“I definitely want to medal. My ultimate goal – there’s two people I would really like to be able to defeat but ultimately to take the gold.”
The Paralympic athletes along with their Olympic judo colleagues were officially unveiled Tuesday morning at an event in Montreal.
Walby is a veteran of the sport, finishing seventh at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The 42-year-old, who formerly competed in able-bodied judo before his sight deteriorated, has claimed two bronze medals this year in international play.
Andrzej Sadej, Head Coach of the Para-Judo team, is confident Canada’s representatives will succeed.
“Priscilla has enjoyed international success over the past couple of seasons and she’s gained a lot of confidence heading in to her first Paralympic Games,” said Judo Canada’s Sports Director. “Tony is one of the most experienced para-judokas in the field and he plans to capitalize on that in Rio.”
Para-judo is designed for visually impaired athletes, who compete in various weight categories for men and women.
Unlike in Olympic judo, combatants have contact with each other at the start of the match and the para-judo mat has a different texture.
Para-judo was first included on the Paralympic program at the 1988 Seoul Games. Canada has won four bronze medals at the Paralympic Games,three courtesy of Pier Morten.
The para-athletes are beginning a three-week-long training camp and will be stationed in Montreal for the duration of preparations for the Games. The Canadian team had the chance to acclimatize to the host city and venues at a preparation event in Rio earlier this year.
The 2016 Paralympic Games run Sept. 7 to 18, 2016, with the para-judo events scheduled to run Sept. 8 to 10.
For Gagné, it can’t come quick enough.
“It’s the dream that I’ve had since I was 10-years-old. To see it all 20 years later come to pass is pretty exciting.”
Photo Credit: Dan Galbraith // Daniel Marcotte // Canadian Paralympic Committee