Monday, August 26, 1996

Sun sets on golden Paralympics for Canada

 ATLANTA (CP) -- Toronto's Brent McMahon and Clayton Gerein of Pilot Butte, Sask., combined their efforts to finish 1-2 in the men's wheelchair race marathon Sunday to cap a very successful Paralympic Games for Canada.
 In swimming Tony Alexander won gold in the 50-metre freestyle while Walter Wu of Richmond, B.C., and Marie Claire Ross of London, Ont., each won their sixth medals of the Games, tops on the Canadian team, with bronze medals in their respective 50 freestyles.
 The 132-member Canadian team won 69 medals -- 24 gold, 21 silver, 24 bronze -- over 10 days of competition and placed seventh in the overall medal standings out of 120 countries.
 In the wheelchair marathon, McMahon, who has lived in Atlanta the past four years, put to good use his knowledge of the local roads. He entered the stadium in a dead heat with before the sprint at the finish. McMahon crossed the finish first completing the 26-mile trek in two hours five minutes.
 "Our plan was to break the Americans, they were the threat," said McMahon, a 30-year-old copywriter with a marketing firm in Atlanta.
 "From the halfway point on, Clayton and I worked the race together. At times I was able to help Clayton because I knew the roads. In fact at one point I was ahead of him by 30-40 metres and slowed down to warn him there was an approaching dangerous corner.
 "We came into the stadium he was just ahead of me, we sprinted, and I got him by half a wheel."
 It was a third medal for Gerein who won the 5,000 and placed second in the 1,500 earlier this week.
 Wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal, who won five medals including two gold, was Canada's flag bearer at Sunday night's closing ceremonies.
 She highlighted a 42-medal performances by the Canadian track and field squad. It was also a great meet for the Canadian swimmers and cyclist. The 13-member swimming squad compiled 19 medals and nearly 40 personal best times while seven more medals were won by the eight-member cycling team.
 Canada also did well in team sports defending its Games title in women's wheelchair basketball and a best-ever silver in goalball, a sport for the visually impaired.
 While not without flaws, the Atlanta Paralympics have been in many ways a major success. While attendance was expected to reach 700,000 by Sunday's closing ceremonies -- less than half the turnout in Barcelona -- there were record crowds for North America to watch athletes with a disability.
 Crowds in swimming and wheelchair basketball sometimes drew over 5,000 spectators.
 "I felt good for the City of Atlanta, the people really got behind the Games," said McMahon. "There was a lot of positive things. But in my opinion the Games should have been run a little better. They had four years to prepare.
 "Some of the problems we encountered were inexcusable. There were problems everywhere, training schedules, competitions, the village. But the Canadians hunkered down and really smiled throughout it all. We really bonded as a team."