“You have opened our eyes, transforming impossibility into a life full of possibility. You have shown that together we are one."
The “biggest and best Parapan American Games ever,” as stated by Americas Paralympic Committee (APC) President Jose Luis Campo in his closing speech, came to a close on 15 August 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
Competition across all 15 sports ended with USA winning gold in the men’s wheelchair basketball and Brazil topping the podium in football 7-a-side and men’s goalball.
During eight days of competition, 10 world, 70 Americas and 239 Games records were broken and the APC President was quick to praise the athletes.
As we approach the Americas Paralympic Committee’s (APC) 20th anniversary on 1 August, Toronto 2015 comes at No.11 at the APC Top 20 Moments in History.
“Over the last eight days more than 1,600 incredible Para athletes have redefined how we look at sport,” said Campo at the Closing Ceremony. “You have entertained us with your high level performances and shown that life is about maximising ability and not perceived disability.
“You have opened our eyes, transforming impossibility into a life full of possibility. You have shown that together we are one.
“Your record breaking performances speak for themselves. You are getting faster, stronger and more agile by the day. Your future is extremely bright.”
The Games ended with 18 of the 28 participating countries winning at least one medal. Bermuda won their first ever Parapan medal, a gold courtesy of T53 wheelchair racer Jessica Lewis, and Trinidad & Tobago won their first ever Parapan titles thanks to F43 thrower Akeem Stewart in the discus and javelin events. Nicaragua also medalled for the first time with athletes from the country winning four bronze medals.
“Bringing home Bermuda's first medal in Para sports is an extremely huge honour for me,” said Lewis. “I have had some incredible support from my country since I started competing in 2010, which has been amazing.
“Para sport wasn't very well known in Bermuda so being able to be a part of our country's Movement has been and continues to be a highlight of my racing career.
“Competing at the games was incredible for different reasons. This was the first major competition I had been where there were other athletes competing for Bermuda. Being able to support them and be able to cheer for Bermuda was a very exciting and prideful experience for me.
“Secondly, this was the first time that the majority of my family were all there together to support me. We are a very close family and I would have never made it where I am today without their love and support. So making the podium with them in the stands was even more amazing.”
Hosts Canada enjoyed their best Parapan Am Games to finish second with 168 medals, which included 50 gold. However, it was Brazil who led the way, picking up 257 medals, including 109 gold.
Canadian multiple-Paralympic and world champion Aurelie Rivard, who claimed six golds and one silver at Toronto 2015, said: “It was one of the greatest experiences in my swimming career.
“In 2013, we had the World Championships in Montreal but I did not perform as I wanted and did not really enjoy it.
“At the Parapan Am Games I wanted to do differently and use the energy from the home crowd to power me up. It was amazing, really great to show Para sports to Canada because a lot of people did not really know what it is about.
“I was so satisfied with my performances and gave me a lot of confidence ahead of the Paralympic year.”