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140 athletes set to represent Canada at Parapan Am Games in Chile

Wheelchair basketball player Cindy Ouellet is among 140 Canadian athletes in Santiago, Chile for the seventh edition of the Parapan Am Games, which opens Friday. Nearly 2,000 athletes from 30 other nations will be battling for medals across 17 sport disciplines. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/File)

Wheelchair basketball player Cindy Ouellet is among 140 Canadian athletes in Santiago, Chile for the seventh edition of the Parapan Am Games, which opens Friday. Nearly 2,000 athletes from 30 other nations will be battling for medals across 17 sport disciplines.

Photo:  (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/File)

RCI

Opening ceremony Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, CBC Sports app, CBC Gem

In the wake of strong performances by Canadian athletes at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, it's time for the country's top Para athletes to compete, with the seventh Parapan Am Games opening Friday in the Chilean capital.

A team of 140 athletes will represent Canada, aiming to add to the 164 medals — including 46 gold — their compatriots won.

Nearly 2,000 athletes from 30 other nations will be battling for medals across 17 sport disciplines in Chile, the first time a South American country has hosted the event. There has been consistent growth over the previous six iterations, with some 1,000 Para athletes from 18 countries at the first Games in Mexico City.

Competition runs Nov. 17-26 and will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Friday's opening ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

Canada's team is a blend of experience and youth.

The team includes 64 Paralympians, 18 of whom have won medals at past Games. And while there will undoubtedly be a veteran presence, there are sure to be first-time nerves as well.

Sixty-six athletes are making their Parapan Am Games debut, with 55 appearing in a multi-sport Games for the first time. 

Para table tennis player Stephanie Chan is the oldest member of the team at 66 years old while Para swimmer Fernando Lu is the youngest, having turned 16 in July. 

There is representation from across Canada, with athletes from 10 provinces. Ontario has the most attending at 54, followed by Quebec (28), British Columbia (24), Alberta (16), Saskatchewan (5), New Brunswick (5), Newfoundland & Labrador (3), Manitoba (2), Nova Scotia (2), and Prince Edward Island (1).

Bridges, Ouellet lead dual sport Para athletes

Compelling storylines abound, including Billy Bridges, who was added to the roster later following the original team nomination date. 

Bridges is one of the country's most decorated Paralympians, winning gold, silver twice and bronze in Para ice hockey at six previous Games.

The 39-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has an unwavering commitment to excellence in sport that has him making his Parapan Am Games debut in athletics, competing in javelin and shot put.

WATCH | Bridges's path to becoming a Para hockey star:

My Story: Billy Bridges’ unusual path to hockey gave his life more meaning

A chance encounter while skateboarding led Billy Bridges to sledge hockey. Now a veteran on the Canadian national team, the three-time Paralympic medallist is inspired by his wife, Olympian Sami Jo Small, to keep pushing his limits on the ice and in the classroom.

He isn't the only athlete to compete in multiple sports at a Paralympic or Parapan Am Games. 

There are six other dual sport Para athletes including Cindy Ouellet, who is part of the wheelchair basketball team and also a Para Nordic skier.

Paralympic spots on the line

These Games mark a pivotal moment for many of Canada's teams looking to qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympics  next August and September.

For the Canadian women's and men's wheelchair basketball teams, goalball squads and wheelchair rugby entry, the qualification path is simple: win and secure an Olympic berth for your country.

Competition begins Saturday with the Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team facing Brazil, while the Canadian men meet Chile in the final game of the day.

For individual sports, the qualifying route can be as simple as winning your event or, in some cases, a little more complicated. 

Powerhouse cycling team

For example, the winners of the men's and women's singles tennis tournaments automatically qualify for Paris. The event also counts toward the athletes' world rankings, which ultimately determine qualification for the Paralympics.

Canada has a powerhouse team of eight Para cyclists. The Games count toward Paralympic Games qualifying, with riders earning points for their results. Country quota spots for Para cycling at Paris 2024 will be based on rankings from various competitions taking place before next June.

The experienced, 14-member Canadian boccia team can lock up spots in some events for the Paralympics while the event also offers world ranking points toward qualification.

In the case of Para athletics, the event is not a qualifier for the Paralympics.

Four years ago at the Parapan Am Games in Lima, Canadian athletes won 60 medals, including 17 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze.

Canada's best performance at the Games in 2015 resulted in 168 medals on home soil in Toronto.

Devin Heroux (new window) · CBC Sports

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