Canadian team ready for massive crowds in London

Wheelchair rugby veteran Garrett Hickling and boccia player Marco Dispaltro are eager to excite the crowds in the British capital. 28 Aug 2012
Marco Dispaltro will be heading to London 2012 as a member of Canada's Boccia team.

Marco Dispaltro, London 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist and world No. 1

ⒸCanadian Paralympic Committee and Matthew Murnaghan

“What I remember is that when you finish the race, then you can do a lap and feel all the crowd."

Leading members of the Canadian Paralympic team said they will relish the huge crowds set to flock to London 2012.

Wheelchair rugby star Garett Hickling, who will carry the Canadian flag at Wednesday’s Opening Ceremony, experienced wheelchair athlete Diane Roy and rising boccia talent Marco Dispaltro all believe that the atmospheres inside the stadiums will inspire rather than intimidate them.

The London 2012 games will be the most-watched ever, with record ticket sales and broadcasting deals.

And the Canadian team, which is aiming for a top eight gold medal finish, said that the extra exposure will serve as a major boost when they begin their events.

Boccia player Dispaltro, in his first Paralympics as an athlete having previously coached the wheelchair rugby side, said that the big crowds will inspire all competitors to new heights.

“One of the things you want is visibility, and you want the attention and to be the focus of the games,” Dispaltro said.

“When Diane is going to be racing in front of all those people, it’s going to pump her up even more.

“It’s a tremendous atmosphere here already, almost all the tickets have sold out, and that will be great for the athletes.

“I think it’s going to be the greatest Paralympics ever. Having that visibility is going to be awesome.”

Veteran wheelchair athlete Roy, who has competed at events between 400m and the marathon, is taking part in her fifth Paralympic Games.

“I have experience of racing in a full stadium before, and when you get into the stadium you are focused on your race,” she said.

“What I remember is that when you finish the race, then you can do a lap and feel all the crowd.

“I’m excited to do that again.”

Bumper crowds are also expected for the wheelchair rugby, where Canada will hope that the long-serving Hickling can lead them to the podium.

“I try not to think much about pressure when we play,” he said.

“When I’m out there, I’ve always looked at it as ‘game on’, and I’m focused with what’s happening on the court.

“Of course there is always pressure, but I try and push that aside and do what we’re here to do, which is win the gold.”