Big sendoff for Paralympians
By MICHAEL WOOD -- Calgary Sun
Calgary's premier disabled athletes were bid a final farewell before heading off faster, higher and stronger to the Paralympic games in Sydney later this month.
Organizers met with Paralympians at the Olympic Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park yesterday to officially send off eight of Calgary's best athletes, including two-time gold medalist basketball player Kendra Ohama.
"I am so excited right now," said Ohama, 31, who is leaving this morning for Vancouver where she will train with teammates before heading to Sydney on Oct. 10 to compete in wheelchair basketball.
Ohama, a paraplegic, took home the gold for Canada in Barcelona in 1992 and then again in Atlanta at the 1996 Paralympics.
She's looking for a three-peat.
"We know everybody's going to be gunning for us to be the first team to knock us off our winning streak," said Ohama, who works in Calgary as a goldsmith when she's not playing with the Rocky Mountain Rollers basketball team here in Calgary.
"But we want that gold, we want it badly," she said.
Colin McKeage leaves for Australia Monday, where Canada's No. 1- ranked wheelchair tennis player is gunning for a gold of his own.
"I'm ready," said the 31-year-old dental hygienist from Calgary.
"This is the most important thing for me. I had my heart set on Atlanta and I missed that," he said.
McKeage, who won his first national singles title last year in Quebec City in a gruelling match against eight-time defending champ Paul Johnson of Victoria, B.C., clinched one of the two national spots for Sydney and ranks in the top 20 with the International Tennis Federation.
"There aren't going to be any surprises (in Sydney), I know who the top guns are," he said.
Members of Calgary Rotary Clubs bid the athletes good luck in Sydney while pushing to raise funding for the Rotary Challenger Park, a barrier-free facility for the developmental and physically challenged.