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September 23, 2004

Canada wins two more medals in track and field

ATHENS- Veteran throwers Courtney Knight of Burnaby, B.C., and France Gagné of Alma, Que., both won bronze medals in events for visually impaired to highlight Canadian performances in track and field Thursday at the Paralympic Games.

In the women’s discus for visually impaired, Knight, a four-time Paralympian, won the bronze medal with a season best 38.29 metre toss achieved on her third of six throws. The result was a surprise for Knight who learned in February that her main event, the women’s pentathlon, was being removed from this year’s Paralympic program.

“To still pull out a great throw after such a long season and do it when it counts is really important for me,” said Knight, 28, who has medalled at the last three Games. “I never expected a medal I thought I was in a battle for fourth at best.”

In the men’s javelin for visually impaired, Gagné won the bronze medal with a 50.01 metre toss achieved on his first throw. Gagné, 41, won two medals in Sydney in 2000 including silver in javelin and won the world title in the event last year.

Chih Chung Chiang of Chinese Taipei won with a world record 59.38.

“The competition is getting stronger,” said Gagné. “Especially a country like China which is gearing up for the next Games. We need to invest more in order to keep up because we’ll win less medals. Personally I was very pleased. I told myself if I won a medal here I would continue until 2008.”

In the men’s 1,500 wheelchair final for quadriplegics, Clayton Gerein of Pilot Butte, Sask., a six-time Paralympic team member and Rick Reelie of Saskatoon finished fourth and sixth respectively. Dean Bergeron of Quebec City did not finish.

In the women’s shot put final for cerebral palsy, Kris Vriend of Edmonton was eighth and Katie Wallace of Quesnel, B.C., 10th. “I was hoping for a top-five finish but the competition was very strong,” said Vriend. “But I progressed with each throw and I’m pleased with that.”

In the women’s 400 wheelchair race for quadriplegics, world record holder Lisa Franks of Saskatoon set a Games record in heats clocking 1:11.95 to advance to the final. Teri Thorson of Victoria also advanced while Karen March of Prince Albert, Sask., was eliminated.

In the women’s 400 wheelchair race for paraplegics, Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal, Diane Roy of Hatley, Que., and Jessica Matassa of Windsor, Ont., placed first in each of the three heats to advance to the final. Petitclerc, a double gold medallist so far, posted the fastest time at 54.38, a Paralympic record.

“To get the record in the 400 is great because it was a tough heat with Louise Sauvage (of Australia), ” said Petitclerc. “I’m also happy to see this the last time I have two races on the same day. Now I can focus on one race at a time.”

“I never expected to do this well at these Games,” added Matassa, a bronze medallist in the 800, her first Paralympic event, on Wednesday. “In the 400 I did a personal best by two seconds so I’m really happy with it. I would love nothing more than to see the Canadians sweep the final.”

In the women’s 1,500 metre wheelchair race for paraplegics, Roy and Petitclerc each won their heats to qualify for the final.

Roy hopes she can turn around a self-described disappointing Paralympics so far in the upcoming 1,500 and 400 finals on Friday and Saturday respectively.

“I actually hesitated to race the 400 because the final is Saturday evening and the marathon is Sunday morning, ” said Roy. “I’m trying to save as much energy as possible especially that my finals haven’t been satisfying so far.”

Reprinted with permission

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