Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


The 2015 Pan American Games were hailed as Canada's most successful athletic outing in the history of the event. Toronto hosted the Games and Canadian athletes set a new national record by winning 78 gold medals, placing second overall with a total of 217 medals.

Retired Canadian cyclist Curt Harnett acted as Games chef de mission. His own impressive record of competitive excellence had begun on the Pan American stage in 1983, and he went on to win gold in the 1,000-metre time trial and bronze in match sprint at the 1987 Pan American Games. Although he parlayed these formative experiences into three Olympic medals captured between 1984 and 1996, Harnett was compelled to train for most of his career in the United States because Canada lacked adequate track racing facilities. He was determined that the 2015 Pan American Games would empower young Canadian athletes with a legacy of improved resources "...ensuring our athletes continue to pursue excellence right here at home." Reflecting Harnett's influence, chief among the legacy of improved athletic facilities left by the 2015 Pan American Games was a $56-million dollar cycling velodrome. A state-of-the art facility, the venue was also a multi-purpose community space that included courts for volleyball, badminton and basketball and a fitness centre.

In addition to record-setting medal performances and a legacy of improved training facilities, the 2015 Pan American Games marked the emergence of many dynamic young athletes breaking exciting new ground for Canada. Among the brightest new stars to ascend the podium in Toronto was 19 year old Kia Nurse, the youngest member of the Canadian Women's Basketball Team. Nurse scored 33 of her team's 81 points in a thrilling final game, helping to win Canada's first-ever gold medal in women's basketball at a Pan American Games. Honoured as Canada's flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the 2015 Pan American Games, Nurse credited a supportive home crowd for spurring her team on to victory. She expressed hope their achievements would help popularize women's basketball in Canada, explaining "We don't even get to play meaningful games at home and for this to be our first one, it set the standard extremely high. Canada really stepped up to the plate."

2015 marked the first time the Parapan American Games were held in conjunction with the Pan American Games in Canada. The competition featured 15 different sports, each acting as a qualifier for the 2016 Paralympic Games. In 2011 Canadian athletes had placed a distant eighth in Parapan competition with a total of 63 medals. In 2015, the largest Parapan team ever to represent Canada surpassed all expectations, placing second overall by capturing an outstanding total of 168 medals on home soil.

The 2015 Parapan American Games raised the profile of disabled athletes in Canada by exposing spectators to exhilarating, fast-paced sports like wheelchair rugby. An exemplary team sport that required players with different levels of mobility to execute different but equally essential roles, wheelchair rugby had been invented in Winnipeg by five quadriplegic Canadian athletes in 1976. With breakout player Zak Madell scoring 34 of the host nation's 57 goals in a close final game, Canada captured the gold. Although Madell had lost his legs and fingers at the age of ten due to a staph infection, he ranked among the most mobile members of the winning squad. Regardless, he proudly asserted their gold medal performance required a total team effort, explaining his offensive prowess would be impossible without lower mobility players running interference and making it possible to score. Quickly dubbed a 'rugby rock star' due to his intensity, speed, and a forceful style of play as well as exceptional dedication to his teammates, Madell emerged as one of the most compelling new faces of high-performance disabled sport in 2015, and was honoured as Canada's flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

gold medal with Games logo on blue and green ribbon
The medals for the 2015 Pan American Games were designed by Métis artist Christi Belcourt and produced by the Royal Canadian Mint. The three shapes on the front represent the three areas of North American, Central America and the Caribbean and South America. The logo and Games motto is on the reverse side with the United We Play pattern.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

stylized torch with yellow and orange human figures
The torch design for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games represented the energy and playfulness of the brand which had depictions of people in motion. This torch was carried by Kyle Shewfelt 2004 Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics. Calgary was one of five cities outside of Ontario that hosted the relay. This torch was carried by Michelle Cameron Coulter 1988 Olympic gold medallist in synchronized swimming to the site of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

toy porcupine with coloured quills and orange hat
The mascot for both the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games was a porcupine named Pachi. The design came from a contest for schoolchildren under the age of 16 and winners were four grade eight students. The mascot has 41 quills representing the 41 nations competing in the Games and its name means "clapping with joy" from a Japanese phrase.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

poster with sports pictograms and motto in three languages
The brand for the 2015 Pan American Games was United We Play! This poster has depictions of people in motion symbolizing the assembly of athletes through the celebration of sport and culture. Each figure denotes a different sport. The motto is in the official languages of English, French and Spanish.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

white shirt with orange number 21 on left shoulder
The 2015 Pan American Games relay started with the lighting of the torch at the pyramids of Teotihucan in Mexico. The flame was then flown to Canada where it was carried by 3,000 people for 41 days through 130 communities in Ontario. The same torch was used for the Parapan relay that went to 12 communities in five days. Michelle Cameron Coulter, 1988 Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming wore this shirt as a torchbearer.
Collection: Private collection: Michelle Cameron Coulter

photograph of synchronized swimmers Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas in pool
Synchronized swimming requires precision, artistry and athleticism. The duet team of Jacqueline Simoneau and Karine Thomas showed these qualities at the 2015 Pan American Games. The most important quality of teamwork was demonstrated by their gold medal win in the duet event. They said the support of the home town crowd was a major factor in their performance.
Collection: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

photograph of Derek Drouin jumping over high bar
Derek Drouin won the gold medal in high jump with his teammate Michael Mason winning the silver. Derek credits his confidence to the crowd of fans and said it could not get any better than to have Canada go gold-silver at the Games. Later in 2015 he also won the World Championship.
Collection: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Photograph of Kia Nurse driving past opposition player in basketball game
Kia Nurse started playing basketball at the age of four and by seven she was playing in a competitive league. While still in high school she was invited to the training camp for the national team where she earned a spot. Her drive and passion for the game helped her team win the women's gold medal in basketball at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Collection: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Photograph of Kia Nurse carrying the Canadian flag
The Women's National Basketball team faced their opponents from the Americas in the FIBA Americans (Pan-American Basketball Confederation) Women's Championships in August 2015. Spurred on by the home town fans, who chanted "Rio, Rio" they won the tournament and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. Kia Nurse was a key player for Canada and was voted the MVP of the tournament.
Collection: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Binch

photograph of Zak Madell playing wheelchair rugby
Zak Madell came to the sport of wheelchair rugby after trying sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. He has quickly become one of Canada's premier players in the sport and is growing in his knowledge of the tactics and technical aspects of the game. His love of the game and the fact that he is just out to have fun is what makes him such a strong player.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Dan Galbaith

photograph of Zak Madell defending ball against opponents
Wheelchair rugby was developed by Canadian athletes who wanted a more challenging and physical sport. Known as 'murder ball', it demands physical strength and knowledge of strategy. Zak Madell's coach referred to him as a 'perfect storm' based on his ability and notes that he is still growing in his game. Zak helped his team win the gold medal at the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Dan Galbraith

gold medal with Games logo on yellow and orange ribbon
Using the same design elements as the Pan American Games medal, the Parapan Am Games medal included the brand with the stylized people in motion on the front. Braille was included on the reverse side of both medals.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Chantal Petitclerc with relay torch
Chantal Petitclerc who had won multiple gold medals at the Paralympic Games was given the honour of lighting the cauldron at the 2015 Parapan American Games. The cauldron was made of ten types of steel and was one of the most visual symbols of the Games.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Matthew Murnaghan

photograph of Canadian team entering stadium
The 2015 Canadian Parapan Am Games team was led into the stadium by flagbearer Mark Dispaltro who played on the boccia team. Mark, who was past 40 years old, credits legendary hockey player Gordie Howe as his inspiration to keep on playing. He was selected for his fierce competitive side as well as his mentoring of younger athletes.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Matthew Murnaghan

photograph of Benoit Huot and Alexander Elliot with medals and mascots
Benoit Huot is a multiple medallist in swimming at the Paralympic Games from 2000 to 2012 and 2015 Parapan Am Games. Athletes at the Paralympic Games compete in their specific classification against athletes of equal ability. This system ensures that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power and endurance.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Scott Grant

photograph of Whitney Bogart in front of goal in Goalball game
Goalball is a team sport designed specifically for blind athletes. Athletes, who play three to a side, use a ball with bells inside to judge the movement and placement of the ball. Eyeshades ensure all athletes compete on an equal footing. Team Canada won the bronze medal at the 2015 Parapan Am Games.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Dan Galbraith

photograph of Cody Salomons jumping over high bar
Cody Salomons competed at both the high jump and the 100m at the 2015 Parapan Am Games. He continues to give back to the community by being a public advocate and motivator for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Matthew Murnaghan

teams of two cyclists racing on track
Para-cycling is one of the most exciting competitive events. Racing on a velodrome track this sport can include athletes with different disabilities. Cyclists with a visual impairment ride in tandem with a sighted guide. The cyclists work as a team and employ the same strategy and tactics as any other cyclist.
Collection: Canadian Paralympic Committee/Dan Galbraith

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