Tales From A Newly Minted Parapan Sports Fan

For those living in Toronto and its environs this summer it has been nearly impossible to avoid the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games.  That said, I have done my damnedest to do exactly that.  Besides grumbling about the HOV lanes and taking in a couple of theatre events that seemed loosely affiliated with it the Games have barely been on my radar.  This could be due in no small part to the fact that I know very little about organized sports.  In fact I know zero.  Zip.  Nada.  Bupkiss.  The square root of bugger all, and I have been absolutely fine with this for the better part of my life.  That said the daily newspaper fell open to an ad for discounted tickets to the Parapan Games and I took notice for a change.   I remembered watching a fascinating documentary called “Murderball” about a group of quadriplegic men playing full contact rugby.  They were superb athletes and I thought I should avail myself of the chance to see something like that live in action so I bought tickets to the wheelchair preliminary match. On a sunny Tuesday I left work early and made my way over to the Mattamy Athletic Centre, home to Ryerson Univeristy Athletics and,  certainly more relevant to me, the old Maple Leaf Gardens where in my youth I had watched a handful of Marlies games and dozens of tinnitus inspiring rock concerts.

Maple Leaf Gardens

I took my seat, settled in and waited for the games to begin, confident that I would stay for a couple of periods (innings?  Quarters?) and leave.  The Canadian Women’s team was up first battling Brazil and within moments I was transfixed.  These people were incredible – stopping, starting and spinning on a dime.  Launching themselves across the court at top speed on arms that could have rolled me up like a cigarette.  Their shots were incredible.

Girls in action Girls In Action 2

Coincidentally both women in number 7 jerseys were standouts for their respective teams.

Number 7s

Canada’s Cindy Ouellet was making shots that boggled the mind, including one hook shot from centre court that sailed through the net without a hint of rim.  I only saw her miss once.  Her Brazilian counterpart was a nimble minx called Ana Rosa.  She too had wickedly accurate aim and seemed to be everywhere at once.  Any time she scooped the ball I said a silent prayer as it seemed inevitable that she would score.  The Canadian captain is a woman called Janet McLachlan.  The top scorer for her team she towed over everyone in a tall chair with a long reach that stretched for miles.

J McLachlan

This was a fast exciting game that saw the Canadians take an early lead that they hung on to through nail biting action.  Final score:  82:51

Score Points

Clearly I wasn’t going anywhere and my plan of watching one game then leaving was not going to happen.  The half time show was entertaining and geared mostly to kids.  They had their dancing mascot, which I cannot readily type.


Just looked it up.  Evidently it is meant to be a porcupine that goes by the name of Pachi.

They had some fun camera games and shot mini basketballs in to the crowd

The "Muscle-Cam"

The “Muscle-Cam”

After a half hour rest the men took to the court.  As they will whizzing about taking their practice shots I noticed something about one of the Argentinian players

Vilafane LD

See number 8?  Notice anything?  Like the fact that he has ONE @#%$^^^ ARM?????

Vilafane CU

Because wheelchair basketball isn’t challenging enough.  The gentleman in #8 is Gustavo Vilafane, a triple amputee and possible immortal.  If I wasn’t awed by the physical prowess before I certainly was now.

Gustavo Vilafane

Gustavo Vilafane

There was also one handsome guy on the Canadian team I referred to as “Wheelchair Ben Affleck”.  (The real Ben Affleck has been in the news a great deal lately because of his rumoured infidelity with the family nanny, so I suspect there might be a potential for two “Wheelchair Ben Affleck”s if his wife is pushed far enough.)

Jonathan Vermette - "Wheelchair Ben Affleck"

Jonathan Vermette – “Wheelchair Ben Affleck”

The mens game was played considerably differently to the women.  The men tended to cluster together, there was far more rigorous contact and fewer shots on net.  The Canadian’s triumphed and I left quickly.  Frankly I preferred the women’s game better – it was faster with more passing and covered the court more expansively.  So much so that I bought tickets on the spot to the gold medal finals on Friday.  They were nail biting and fantastic and I could barely watch for all the anticipation.  Sadly, my ladies lost the gold but took a brilliant and shiny silver medal.

After decades of resistance, I am now a sports fan.  A very very limited sports fan.  But the lid is off.  Let’s see what tempts me out next

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